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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Countdown Begins...

Gee, I've got five hours and four minutes to reach one of my goals for 2011; completing 52 posts in one year.  This number was supposed to represent one blog entry for each week of the year.  Seeing as I am not a daily blogger nor a weekly one for that matter, completing 52 in one year is a pretty big goal.  And,....I did it!

This is my 52nd blog for the year 2011.  A job well done?  Well?  At least it is done.  I can't objectively claim if they were done 'well' or not.  But, they were done and they represent me.  Take me or leave me.  My blogs for the year encompass truth, pain, growth, and introspection.

When I started this journey two years ago I was quite a mess both mentally and physically.  I now look forward to 2012 with a calmness and hopefulness that everything I need will somehow be taken care of and everything I want will be manifested as long as I embrace positivity.

It seems that each and every day begins with a new opportunity to focus my mind and believe that I can achieve what I want in my lifetime.  Some things just may take longer than others.  The universe has to be in alignment and eventually things will come to fruition.

Our family has been blessed recently and I truly believe it was manifested through hard work, positive thinking, and spiritual energy.  The different worlds and dimensions lined up just so to relieve us of some incredible pressure.  We are lucky enough to have a moment in time where we can breath just a bit easier.

Hopefully, we will relish this moment, make good decisions, and be thankful for our good fortune.  It does not hurt to begin the new year of 2012 in the black!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post Number 51

Okay, so I've got two more posts (including this one) looming on my to do list before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

For the last few days I've contemplated writing about my youngest son, Nicolas, and how he just turned 15 a few days ago.  There is no doubt about it, my baby is a young man.

For the last few months he's grown at least three inches, built muscle, grew facial hair, and made me feel like I've hit a new phase in my life.  It's bad enough that his older brother, at only 19 years old, is sporting a full beard, mustache, and overgrown hair.  (He refuses to shave and insists that his girlfriend loves him even if he looks like a mountain man.)

The influence of his older brother, while gracing us with his presence while on college semester break, is palpable.  Now, Nicolas is dead-set on growing his sideburns and his mini-goatee.  Nicolas did allow me to shave his mustache, however.  This is what a mom of teenage boys goes through.

Who would have thought that I'd be mustering ways to combat a closed bedroom door so as to avoid death by contained body odor? 

I never anticipated negotiating favors to entice one of my sons to groom his appearance.  But, sadly, it has come down to these drastic tactics.  But, even more tragic, nothing has worked.  I feel like a warden in a prison where each prisoner has the key to their cell and free-range of the entire prison yard.  Sometimes it feels like they are dangling the key, menacingly, in front of my face and tormenting me with my own threats.

Once again I realize that 2011 has been a year to learn to let go, trust that I've done the best possible job as a parent, and let my kids become responsible adults.  So much growth can become challenging and exhausting.

But, in the end, I have a sense of pride in myself and my sons.  They have blessed my life in more ways than they could fathom!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Half-Ass Christmas

I sit here wondering, is it just me or, as we get older do we become more Scrooge-like?

Well, most likely, it is just me.  I am 46 years old with two teenage boys.  The days of visiting Santa at the mall are long gone.  The letter writing, list making, and wish granting are a thing of the past.  This year I thought I was scott-free of the Christmas hassle of lugging out the boxes from the garage storage space, opening them, and unwrapping cold, faded, and 'antique' decorations.  I had it in my mind that I would devote only one room in the house to red and green and mismatched tchotchkes.  But alas, four days before Christmas my husband has to spoil my plan and 'surprise' us with a Christmas tree.  I adopted my Scrooge persona and vowed to lift not one finger in its adornment.

On day two he dragged the plump, little munchkin of a tree into the house and erected it in the stand.  It wasn't too bad; it was green, after all.  But, it was all of four feet tall.  I asked him how much he spent and he said $10, although it may have been more.  After fussing a bit, he decided to decapitate the top branch.  I don't know what he was thinking.  Every time I walked through the living room I thought, "I have a headless Christmas tree", and then I would giggle to myself.

On day three he strategically placed two strands of multi-colored lights and some gold tinsel.  I have to say, the lights did look nice but I must admit the final product really accentuated the fact that there was no top to the tree.  The year of the headless-Christmas tree!  After a snide comment from me, my husband sneaked into the garage, searched through the boxes, and at midnight placed a colorful star on top.  Now, I will admit that it really doesn't look too bad.  There are still no ornaments on the tree.  I refuse to participate.  Bah-hum-bug.

It really has been a minimalist Christmas.  The only reason why we have a holiday flag on the pole outside our home is because my Aunt Peggy gave me a brand new one she found at the Salvation Army.  My mother was kind enough to give me a fresh wreath she ordered and had delivered from L.L. Bean.  My mom even purchased a new tablecloth for our traditional annual Christmas brunch.  There was a box of knick-knacks she was gonna donate to Goodwill and I confiscated them and placed them on the banquet table in the dining room.  David, my husband, purchased a poinsetta plant that sits on the top of the dining room table.

My plan was to have a budget for each person in our immediate family.  No more than $30 per person.  A very limited Christmas, indeed.  Let's face it, we really don't 'need' anything.  The economy sucks.  And, would you rather have electricity and a holiday meal or yet another pair of slippers and a shaving kit?  Well, as time went on and now that we are one day before Christmas I believe I blew my budget by about three times the amount.  Still, not as much as I have spent in the past when the kids were little and into the latest video game or action figure.  Now, as teenagers, they are happy with a gift card and a new pair of sneakers.

I think my phase of Grinch during Christmas will last until I have grandchildren.  And, I pray that that is quite a few years down the road!


I am thinking of that famous saying by Albert Einstein, "Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  

As I spend the last few days of the month of December in the year 2011 and contemplate my approach to 2012 I feel this message is one I will adopt as my anthem to help me achieve different and better results in my life this coming year.

In the past I have always made a list of 'resolutions'.  Some years it worked.  It kept me on track and helped me reach goals that I may not have if it were not for a list revealing my various commitments in writing.  Some years the list of resolutions seemed to stifle me, get me angry at myself, and leave me with a sense of dread and guilt for not having lived up to my aspirations.

So, this year I resolve to remember to step back, take a chance, and roll the dice.  By getting out of my comfort zone I hope to bring new experiences and growth to my currently mundane life.  Changing behavior (especially when you are my age) is challenging and takes a lot of guts.  It is so easy and comforting to do the same thing over and over.  The flavor of life becomes bland.  Yes, it gets old.  And, some might say, leads you to insanity.

In 2012, I want to add some sweet, a dash of sour, a bit of spice, a pinch of salt, and a hint of umami to my existence.  Off the top of my head here are some things I may venture into:

1.  Traveling to a new place.
2.  Taking a writing class or seminar.
3.  Putting money away in savings.
4.  Working for a steady paycheck.
5.  Buying an affordable car.
6.  Adopting a positive attitude.
7.  Supporting my kids' individual choices.
8.  Helping the less fortunate.
9.  Reading more.
10.Eating less.
11.Keeping my happiness priority one.
12.Exercising body, mind, and spirit through:  walking, yoga, and pilates.
13.Breathing fresh air more than staying inside.
14.Making new friends.
15.Believing in the impossible.

It sounds like this is a list, right?  Well, it is mostly a nebulous guideline.  A wishy-washy, non-commital outline of a new approach to living.  No, not many of these items are measurable so it really doesn't follow the standard of a true goal.  But, that's okay.  It is the beginning of the stretch for me to stop what I did in the past, which may not have worked, and ingrain a new instinct in my modus operandi.

A fresh start for 2012!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Live 4 2 Day!

Live 4 2 Day!

This is a motivational phrase I have emblazoned on my cell phone and it appears every time I push a button and the screen lights up.  Most times I ignore it.  It's only when I am changing my wallpaper picture that I pay attention.  I mostly want to make sure that this saying does not fade into the background of the picture.

But do I really pay attention to the words, live for today?

No, not really.  At least most days.  Monday through Friday when I'm inevitably at home doing the same ritualistic things week to week I am just existing.  The weekends are a different story, though.

During the weekend is when I have freedom to roam and hang out with my favorite people, my family.  I also get to spend time with my best friend, my mom.  My mother and I enjoy eachothers company in addition to having the familial connection.  We are two different people, separated by a generation.  But, we are never afraid to get our feet wet in the others life experience.  For instance, we each have an appreciation for the music we grew up with.  I am still amazed and proud that my mother never stopped growing in her musical taste when she reached adulthood, got married, and had a family.  I don't know many 71-year-olds who would go to a Who/Eric Clapton concert and truly enjoy it.  My mother continues to listen to the contemporary rock radio station and can name most of the bands.  Similarly, I am well-versed in the music she grew up with in the 50's and have enjoyed many an Elvis song or "Coasters and Friends" revival musical presentation.  But, our respect for each other goes beyond music.

We embrace the same mentality of enjoying life within your means and treating yourself well.  If this means visiting your favorite store for some retail therapy and indulging in a purchase then so be it.  It can also mean venturing out to a new restaurant and experiencing the newness of the atmosphere, service, and food.  At times there is a movie I hear about and drag my mother to accompany me.  Our record is about 50/50.  Half the time I like her cinema choices and half the time she feels neutral about my selections.  But, we learn from each other.  We are able to retain our distinct personalities.  We anticipate the others reaction because we are in tune with our differences.

My mother and I live for the weekends.  She escapes from the tediousness of her Monday through Friday job.  And, I fulfill the feeling of being a human being on the weekends.  We reflect on the past, we plan for the future, but overwhelmingly our motto is "live for today".  Especially on the weekends!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just For The Sake of It

Writing just for the sake of writing.  To some this just doesn't make sense.  To writers it is essential to their craft.  But, what if you literally have nothing interesting or valuable to write about.  Should you still do it?

I've pondered this question since my last post.  Should I go the commercial route and talk about all the AVON products (which I sell) that have really made a difference to my beauty routine?  Should I talk about the evolution of my preference for cats and my relationships with them?  Should I go on and on about how great I think my kids are?  Been there, done that.  Should I 'copy' other bloggers and share my favorite recipe?  Should I just make shit up?  No, not really my style although it would be an interesting challenge for me.  Should I trash my favorite or least favorite celebrity?  Should I step into the world of politics?...And the list of things to talk about goes on and on.

So, when it comes down to it, writing for the sake of writing can actually get your mind racing (if you have the ability to think and type/write at the same time).  Oh, the spontaneity of it all.  What a glorious feeling to just purge (God, I love that word!) your ever-loving mind.  A brain dump, if you will.  Oh, what the hell is the term, free-association?  No, it's on the tip of my know the thing you do with a bunch of people around a table with an easel and someone is writing stuff down as people blurt out shit...oh yeah, BRAINSTORMING!  Boy, old age is a bitch!

Anyhow, I'm down to only five posts (after this one) and I need to generate some ideas for what to write about.  And, I think this post today, which I wrote just for the sake of it, steered me in a new direction.

Thank you dear brain!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scared of Fishes

At one time, almost 25 years ago, I enjoyed the freedom of being on my own.  The freedom to not have anyone directly looking over my shoulder.  The freedom to make choices and deal with the consequences.  The freedom to figure out how to get things done and to devise my own plan of what will work for me within my time, boundaries, and limitations.  I was a small fish in a big pond but I had the freedom to explore the world around me.

Looking back, I must say that this period of my life was when I felt the most vulnerable, unsure, and weary about my future.  But, the difference is I was protected from the stresses of the 'real' world.  Within my tight community of friends and the college campus there was a comfort to explore my insecurities, my hesitancy, and my undiscovered future.  The freedom of being on my own and away from my family, accelerated the friendships and confidantes that I made while at school.  As different as we all were, from different parts of the country, from different countries, and from different cultures, we reveled in the similarities we shared.  We were a cornucopia of blessed goodness and a melting pot of humanity.

I've been worried these last few months.  As a mother who has 'been there, done that' I know what goes on at college campuses.  Even though it has been over 20 years, the fundamentals of being human rarely change.  Oh sure, technology is light years away from when I hit the college books.  For instance, I called my parents once a week on a pay phone.  There was no texting or immediate answer given from my folks.  If I had a concern I waited for the line to use the phone to dissipate on a Sunday afternoon.  And, for the most part, my parents weren't really 'in my business'.  They were a two-day drive away from where I was and pretty much trusted that I was doing what I was supposed to do.  They always seem to trust me to do the right thing.

So, how is it that I sit and worry that my son, a sophomore at college, is doing all that he is capable of doing to stay on track, bring up his grade point average, and formulate plans for his future career?  To be truthful, I fear that he has succumbed to the power of female distraction.  Why, oh why, did this day have to arrive?  At a time when he should be concentrating on himself and what he wants out of life a female had to snatch him up.  My precious little boy is bogged down with the power of the once unknown.  No matter how much my husband or I have screamed out the warnings I fear he has lost himself.

I don't know what to do.  It's like watching a ship sinking in the distance.  You want so badly to swim out in the ocean and rescue the occupants but you're just not equipped with the right stuff.  The most you can do is place a call to the authorities and hope for the best.

As a parent, you realize that there are many times your effectiveness as a parent is put on trial.  You watch as your children grow up and eventually become adults.  They reach milestones and you pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  At some point they are old enough to make their own choices and face the consequences.  Let's hope that they can swim confidently among the fishes and enjoy the freedom of their world.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Measuring Your Worth

Eight more posts then I will have actually achieved a goal, 52 posts in one year!  I have approximately 30 more days to do this and I think I can do it.  Heck, after this post I will be down to seven.

When I was a career-girl, in the corporate world, goal setting was an annual occurrence.  It was an important step to take for women hungry enough to attempt to climb the male-dominated corporate ladder without having to sleep your way to the top.  Having a list of MEASURABLE goals was my ticket to accountability for my accomplishments and justification for a raise, bonus, and promotion.  It gave me credibility with my peers and more importantly it sent a message to my boss and the decision-makers that I was a serious, career-minded woman.  Being able to sit down with your boss at the end of the twelve months and have documented proof of your contributions to the organization and showing personal improvements and betterments always puts you in a position of power.  It is where you reiterate your worth to the company and where you hold the power to negotiate.

Since I left the corporate world in 1996 I have continued to set goals for myself.  Because they happen to be devised at the beginning of the year they tend to resemble New Year's resolutions but for the most part, they are goals.  Some unattained goals linger year after year.  A re-evaluation of the validity of those goals is certainly past due.  But, the most important thing I've learned about goal-setting is to make sure they are measurable.  Have a timeline associated with it.  Have a percentage increase or decrease attached to the goal.  Making the goal concise and quantifiable helps to keep it simple, stupid.

So, as I evaluate my progress of 2011 and prepare my commitments for 2012 I plan to keep in mind the validity and achieve-ability of these goals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Clean Up, Purge, End of the Year Feeling

So, there was quite a mess to clean up after the recent holidays.  I spent today vacuuming, dusting, mopping, doing laundry, organizing, stripping (the bed), sweating, and hurting.  I didn't even make a dent.  There is still so much I can do and want to do but my body said, "Nooooo..."

It's funny but when I was a young mother of young children and staying at home I had so much energy.  Every day I paid special attention to make sure chores were done.  Bathrooms were cleaned once a week.  Laundry was done twice a week.  Linens were changed more frequently.  Things just seemed a little brighter.  Now that I am an older stay-at-home mom with older children I just can't do as much.  My enthusiasm is lackluster and my energy is easily depleted.  I am at the point (as evidenced by the blog post) to resort to announcing all my accomplishments for the day just to give myself a pat on the back and justification for putting my body through this torture.

Okay, so now that I got that off my chest...I must divulge this strange feeling that I get at this time of the year.  It is difficult to explain but I will try my best.  I envision the monthly calendar as a clock.  Visualize, if you can, that January would be 12:00, the symbol of a new beginning.  February would be 1:00, and so on.  Every year as we approach December I get this feeling within the pit of my stomach that time is running out and I am at the end of a cycle.  I think about all of the resolutions or goals that I set at the beginning of the year and whether or not I've achieved them.  I think about all of the things that occurred during the year and if they are open-ended how to resolve them, quickly.

On the bright side, and more importantly, I see past the darkness of the closing of one year and look toward the shining light and blossoming opportunity of a new, fresh year.  A year that is unscathed and virginal.  A year that holds promise for opportunities to jump over hurdles, cross the finish line, and fulfill my dreams.  A new year signifies a new beginning for me.  It offers hope and a second chance.  It is a step in the light of positivity.

So, for the next couple of weeks while I wallow in the shades of darkness and December, closing the chapter on another year of some successes and some failures, I'm able to overcome the challenges and see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I will give myself another shot.  Another mulligan.  An act of redemption at the prospect of rebirth.  I will fulfill my December duties to the best of my ability so that I may enter the new year with a new attitude and positive perspective.

December is a time to revisit the events of the past year.  It is a time to do the accounting of receipts, obligations, and compensation in preparation for paying the piper on April 15th.   I can selfishly become introspective as I evaluate my progression as a human being.  I take the time to envision what will make me happy and content.  I see my surroundings in a critical light and note changes that would benefit the energy of our family.  Call it a feng shui inventory of sorts.  Most importantly, I invest the time in myself.  I try to figure out the formula for what will give me inner peace and joy.

When I solve the equation, I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Don't Like Holidays

Something about holidays, most things about holidays, I don't like.  When it comes down to it, it all seems so fake. It's bad enough that you have the Hallmark holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day where the main beneficiary is business and commerce.

We just got bullied by the food and grocery stores who, with at least a month of preparation and media-hype before the big day, took advantage of our emotional baggage and family obligations and 'made' us spend way too much and eat like gluttons on Thanksgiving.

Now we are less than one month from the mother of all holidays, Christmas.  This year I am staging a mini-revolt.  I am not going to piss away $40 on a Christmas tree.  In fact, I will not put one up this year.  I did not venture to the stores and malls on Black Friday.  And, in the end, I will put a cap on the spending per person in my immediate family; about $30 per person.  This will include a $25 gift card to Target and maybe some cologne or shower gel from AVON.  Very cheap.  Very practical.  The reality is...WE DON'T NEED ANYTHING!  And, besides, we don't have the money to be throwing here and there on nonsense.  Luckily the boys are old enough where they pretty much have every thing they need and are content with what the holiday will consist of.  I already gave them fair warning.

I've never been one to go all out with the holiday decorating.  I can't understand the folks who spend the day after Thanksgiving adorning their homes with lights and picking up their Christmas tree.  Seems as bit extravagant and useless to me.  Now, I'm not entirely a Scrooge.  I will admire the pretty lights when I drive around town during this time of year.  But, I never understood those people who have the manger, lights on the house and every tree in the front yard, and an inflatable snowman, Santa, and Rudolph taking up space on their lawn.  A bit of overkill if you ask me.

While I was growing up, we did have lights on our house and maybe on one of the evergreen trees in our front yard.  We would always have a fresh wreath with a plump red bow hanging on the front door.  I can remember most Christmases with a fresh tree.  We would hang the lights, put on the decorations, and either finish the tree off with some tinsel or spray it with fake snow.  Most times the decorating went off without a hitch but as we got older it was more of a chore and a dreaded event as our family grew more depressed and further apart.

I think I've done okay as a parent in making holidays positive but I never went overboard.  And, maybe I feel a little guilty about this.  But, again, the whole exercise seems fake to me and I'm just not about fake.  I want my kids to have enough of a positive outlook on the holidays so they can share and make their own traditions with their families when the time comes.  I realize that I am falling short on making the holidays 'spectacular'.  It is so hard for me to get in the mood to celebrate.  But, it doesn't mean I love my family any less.

The bottom line is the message that we are trying to get through to each other at the holidays:  love and family.  It's not about presents or cards or how much money we spend (or don't spend).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Releasing the Bug

I should be sleeping right now.  But I am not.

The husband got up early today (5:15 a.m.) to get the kid ready for school.  I should be sleeping in when it's his turn, but here I sit in front of the computer.  Even with a migraine (I took Excedrin) and no tea or vittles I still feel compelled to expunge what has been weighing on my mind for the past week.  You see, it is in my best interest to do this.

It has been a week since NANOWRIMO began and I started my challenge.  I completed two chapters of my novel so far.  But, then I stopped.  I haven't been able to write since last Thursday.  You see, I made a mistake. A huge mistake.

On the evening of day one when I finished my first chapter I was so excited to share it with the people close to me.  The folks I love and trust.  I shared it with my son, as I usually share my writing accomplishments.  His reaction was genuine and filled with encouragement.  I then chose to show it to my other biggest supporter, my mother.  But, before I did that I showed it to my Aunt; big mistake.

My Aunt had been visiting for a couple of weeks and she was there, in the same room.  I should have went with my first instinct and waited until she left town.  (By the way, I totally dislike 'should haves').  But, I was so proud of myself that I actually sat down and began writing and taking my participation in NANWRIMO seriously this year.  Here comes another should have...I should have realized that based on my Aunt's reaction (or lack thereof) to all my previously composed essays and poems that sharing this important, pivotal piece may leave me unsatisfied (again).  I learned a hard lesson, never ignore your instinct, damn it!

During my Aunt's visit I thought it would be a great idea to catch her up on all my blog posts and what I've been going through and feeling the past year or more.  I feel like my writing has been a therapeutic vehicle for me and helped me release the negativity of my past and propelled me to move on and concentrate on the positive in my life.  I thought my Aunt would get a better understanding (and appreciation) for why I am the way I am and almost forgive me for my shortcomings.  Way too much to expect I finally realize.

After keeping my blue binder of writings for a couple of days and while handing it back to me the most she said was, "I liked your piece on Pepa."  That was it.  Not, "Hey, you're a pretty good writer" (I would have settled for even that); not even "Now I understand you a little better".  Just nothing. No feedback good or bad.  I would even have settled for 'bad' feedback.  Just something, damn it.  But, all I got was nothing.  I came to realize that my Aunt is a lousy communicator.  She will never tell you how she really feels.  She will never tell you what she thinks.  Instead, she'll just make a comment on the weather.  Neutral and safe.

After day one I was really excited about my progress.  I had actually spent time exploring the depths of my soul and divulging my childhood experiences.  I was proud at how well I captured a pivotal point in my life.  I wanted to share it with the people I love.  I decided to give her a second chance.  To see if maybe this piece of writing would trigger some emotion.  To see if it would warrant a measurable comment.  The only thing I got was, "Why are you writing about dead people?!"  Are you kidding me?  She just doesn't get it.  At that point I realized my Aunt is not worthy of sharing my work.  I will not get the support I need.  There is no encouragement to be found in that lot.  That lot is vacant.  Such a huge disappointment!

The next day I emailed my mother to explain my frustration with the response I received the previous evening.  Luckily for me, she explained her reaction and made me feel that the fact that I hit a nerve with my mother and captured the details accurately was incentive enough for me to proceed.  Wisely, she offered that I should forget involving my Aunt in my initial audience of first-draft critics.  This was enough salve on my wound to move on and on day two I was able to produce chapter two.

But, as in most things that bother me, my Aunt's reaction (or lack thereof) festered in my brain for the next couple of days until this morning.  This morning I realized that in order for me to get back to the task at hand (participating in NANWRIMO) I must purge my disappointment and sadness about my unfulfilled expectations about my Aunt.  I think I just hit the tip of the iceberg but I've chipped away at it enough for me to begin chapter three.  No doubt, there will be more blog posts about my Aunt in the future.  I just don't see how I can justify the time spent on her right now when I have better things to do, like write. 

If I am not worthy of constructive criticism then she is not worthy of me putting my dreams on hold and pouting about how disappointed I am.  I must get over it and move on.  Forget her.

Things I have learned from this recent experience:

1.  You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
2.  The only opinion that matters is your own.
3.  Having expectations sometimes lead to disappointment.
4.  Don't ask unless you are willing to hear the truth.
5.  Unconditional love comes from those closest to you.
6.  Your most trusted and honest critic is yourself.
7.  Don't ignore your intuition; it is usually correct.
8.  Family can be disappointing.
9.  Not everyone will be your cheerleader.
10.In the end, the only person you can truly rely on is yourself.

Now that I have purged my system of what has been bugging me I am free to continue my journey.

And, I shall wish myself, "Good Luck!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Getting Psyched

This morning I spent some time reading some helpful links and watching some writing-related videos in preparation for my second attempt at completing NaNoWriMo.  During the entire month of November writers, novice and published, will embark on the quick journey to creating a 50,000 word novel during National Novel Writing Month.  Last year I got as far as signing up and writing the title of my novel.

This year I plan to get a little farther.  Perhaps, I may even make the goal.  This averages to about 1,667 words per day.  Innocently, I thought I could just free-form and write what came naturally during those 30 days.  But, come to find out, people (writers) actually will plan the story!  They may even use huge, intimidating white boards with many ideas for plot and characters scribbled in each corner.  Some writers will use index cards, one for each day of the month, as an outline to their story development.  Even the well-organized writer will have a calendar that will keep them on track to when they should be finishing the beginning of the story, deep in crisis-mode, and reaching the climax.  All of this planning is a little intimidating.

Thoughts are already surfacing like, "What if my idea is not good enough?" or "Do I even know what the fuck I'm doing?" and the worst, "I'm not a writer, am I?".  I hate that destructive self-talk.  It's part of the reason why I never seem to accomplish my goals.  Goals that have been lingering on my list for years.  But, I've got to step away from that negative thinking.

There are writers out there that appeal to everyone, from all walks of life.  Some writers soar with their literary finesse.  Some authors get published because of their media presence.  Some people become authors just by luck.  Not all writers have a degree in English literature.  Some writers never went to university or maybe, barely, got their high school diploma.  Some of the best writers have worked at their craft for years and sent out many a manuscript only to receive countless rejections.  But, they kept at it.  Bottom line is you may not be the best wordsmith or you may struggle to execute your ideas.  Writing comes from the heart and is open to every single person.

There is an audience for every word.  So, you've proclaimed to be a writer.  I have too.  Join me for the month of November and participate in NaNoWriMo.  You never know unless you try!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Imparting Wisdom

At some point in your adult life, if you have children, you will realize that the student (your child) has become the teacher.  This switching of roles thus makes you (at one time the in-charge, all-knowing parent), the student.  It is a hard pill to swallow.  But, it is a necessary remedy for wondering how effective you are in your parenting role.

As parents we inevitably will ask ourselves, "Are all the lessons and advice I am trying to instill in my kids' brain getting through to them?"  Does what I say (and sometimes repeat over and over for years on end) ever register with them?  And, if you are very lucky, you will one day realize that they were listening after all!  It is a fine day when this realization becomes clear.

My eldest son, a sophomore in college, is gracing us with his presence this weekend during his fall break.  And, the funny thing is, he really does think he is doing it for our benefit.  He realizes we miss him.  More importantly, he knows how much he is loved.  But, even better, at the ripe old age of 19, he understands that his tough love and words of wisdom are much-needed.

Being in college is not so much about opening the books and studying your ass off to get a 4.0 grade point average (although I will forever continue to nag him about how important this is and how it should be his first priority).  Getting a higher education, away from home, is more about learning about yourself through the people you meet.  They may be your roommates who come from a different culture or another part of the country.  They may be the cute girl down the hall that you happen to say 'hello' to or hold the door for and befriend unexpectedly.  Inevitably, you will each share a part of yourselves, your upbringing, your childhood 'story'.  You may even realize through all of the sharing of personal experiences that you really have had a blessed life compared to others.

College is an exciting time for discovering who you are and who you want to be in the future. You gain an understanding of how you became the person you are today and more importantly find out what you need to do to become the best and happiest you.  You have the freedom from your families' influence because you've been away from them for a while.  You've stepped away far enough from the situation to see the function (or disfunction) of the relationships around you.

And the best part?  You now have the courage and confidence to speak your mind.  You tell those you love what their shortcomings are and what they need to do to change and be a better person.  This may shock, aggravate, or make the receiver of the message uncomfortable but you are so cocky you really don't give a shit.  And the best part?  You are right on the mark.  Yes, you may be a little direct and abrasive but your candor alone reveals just how much you love those around you.  You are willing to be upfront and honest because the people you love deserve to know what you think.

And if you are REALLY loved?  They will ask you your opinion and thank you for imparting your wisdom!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ups and Downs

Not much to say these days.

Tired of complaining.

The 'woe is me' story is getting really old and worn-out.

The ups and downs of life are really just what life is all about.  Nothing is going to be perfect.  And, striving for perfection is exhausting.  Seeing life as something great while you're in the pits of despair is nearly impossible.  But, once you climb out of the sinkhole you realize you can do it.  It all comes down to mental dexterity.

Can I change my way of thinking so that I can actually convince myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel?

Is it possible that I have the strength, endurance, and fortitude within my soul to overcome obstacles which I subconsciously put in my own way?

It is so easy to take steps back, go on the wrong path, and fall into the same traps which you may have been released from previously in your life.  Life is a journey of lessons that are presented to you.  If you find yourself facing the same challenges over and over again it is because you have not mastered the lesson.  It's like beating a dead horse; not satisfying, extremely cruel, and socially unacceptable.

But, really, who cares about what others think?  You come into this world alone.  You die alone.  Everything in between, all the people we meet, and opportunities we take or pass on, are all part of OUR lessons to be learned in OUR life.  My life is different than yours and hence my path to enlightenment will be unique to me.

As much as I say I don't care what others think or do I find myself getting angry, jealous, and annoyed by people.  Strangers, acquaintances, friends, family members, pretty much any one I meet or hear about has the potential to incite a negative emotion within me.  Perhaps this just means I am over-sensitive. Or, do I care too much?

Some times I wish I could be the type of self-actualized person who operates solely out of love and light and every thing is 'ohm'.  They have balanced energy and have harnessed the best of 'chi'.  I ponder if this is really where I want to end up at the end of my journey.  If I embrace such a way of living will the REAL ME be lost in the over-abundance of positivity?  Or,  am I just 'made' to be a negative person?

At 46 years old I realize at least half my life is over.  Some days I feel and act like a little girl protected from the evils of the world.  Other days I feel and act like the evils of the world have penetrated my very soul.  I am still not sure why I am here on this earth.  I have no clue if I have contributed any thing of importance (other than my two beautiful sons).  Is my path pre-determined?  Will I end up dying without making an impact?

Life is a series of ups and downs.  It is like the Dragoncoaster at Playland in Rye, New York.  Old, rickety, fast, exciting, scary, exhilarating, twisting, and grinds to a halt just when you are having fun.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bethenny's Rules

I just finished reading Bethenny Frankel's, A Place of Yes:  10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life.  This book is the perfect combination of two of my favorite genres of books:  self-help and autobiography. 

Why do I care what Ms. Frankel has to say you may ask?  Well, I get the feeling that Bethenny tells it like it is, says what's on her mind, and does not sugar-coat reality.  Yes, I admit that I am a fan of reality television and The Real Housewives series is one of my favorite indulgences.  I happen to watch re-runs on the CW at 9:00 a.m. (EST) Monday through Friday whenever I get a chance.  Bethenny happens to be my favorite 'housewife' from the New York episodes.  She is so relatable and down-to-earth.  She has a wry sense of humor.  I love how she kept her cool and stood up to the shenanigans of Kelly Bensimon.

I read another Bethenny Frankel book, Naturally Thin, and found it helpful.  Ms. Frankel's recent business accomplishments with selling her Skinnygirl spirits brand to Fortune Brands for many, many dollars illuminates her as a force to be reckoned with.  She is so open with her background, foibles, and well-deserved rise to the top.  I was definitely curious to find out what her journey to success taught her.  As I read the book I tried to relate events in my life and measure how well I fared with each rule. 

1.  Break the chain.  For the past two years I've been on this journey of realizing I must let go of the past in order to move toward the future with a clean slate.  Learning how to forgive and change my voice has been a challenge but I realize it is the first and most important step.

2.  Find your truth.  Who am I?  What is my authentic self?  What do I really want to do with my life?  Self-exploration and self-awareness is so important for developing a plan and going after what you want in life.

3.  Act on it.  This is where I stumble or cripple myself.  I know I am the one responsible for making things happen.  I can't rely on anyone but myself.  At times it feels like something is missing from my gut.  There is no drive nor ambition.  Fear is swallowing me whole.

4.  Everything's your business.  I love this rule.  It basically says try everything at least once and if it doesn't work out it's okay.  It is a learning experience.  How will you know if you never try?

5.  All roads lead to Rome.  Perseverance even when you may take the wrong turn (or think you may have taken the wrong turn) will lead you to your goal.  Stay focused.  Learn from the hiccups because even in them there is a lesson which will help us get to where we want to be.

6.  Go for yours.  I love that Bethenny recognizes the necessity of first being your own person and fulfilling your needs before you can help others.  As mothers we tend to put everyone elses needs first.  As my kids have gotten older I realize what a better mother I am when I focus on what I want out of my own life.  As I learn to love myself I love others more freely.

7.  Separate from the pack.  I realized my individuality and uniqueness in college.  I embrace my ideas and independence of thought.  I'm not one to be conventional.  I appreciate difference and diversity.  I love that I have freedom to be myself.

8.  Own it.  Boy, I've practiced a lot of truth-telling just by starting this blog and exposing my feelings.  This is how I own it.  Good and bad, this is how I am.

9.  Come together.  Connection with other people?  Not my forte.  This will be a tough nut to crack.  I'm not sure I even like people half the time.  I am very protective of those people whom I care about.  I don't feel the need to tweet and join every social networking outlet.  I don't measure my worth by how many 'followers' or Facebook friends I have.  But, perhaps I see this rule as a challenge because I haven't quite mastered the other rules yet.  I haven't gotten myself 'right'.

10. Celebrate!  It's one word.  It should be so easy.  But, for me, it's not.  When I read this rule I felt a deep sense of regret in the pit of my stomach.  I was never the type of mom to go overboard and have a birthday party for each of my kids where they invited a dozen friends and shared gifts and cake.  I always keep celebrations private and within the family.  They are never extravagant and border on mundane and predictable.  There is no life in the minimal celebrations in my life.  Perhaps, one day, I will find success and happiness such that my celebrations will reflect the positive energy in my life.

But, for now, it appears that I have to start back at rule number one.  No one said that getting everything I want out of life would be easy.  Some paths are longer than others.  Some paths have more roadblocks.  And, even some paths appear to be never-ending.  But, part of coming from a place of yes is BELIEVING in yourself that you can do it.  You can get everything you want out of life.  And, that you DESERVE it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Required Reading

This may sound lame or strange to some people but every year I get excited to see my son's list of required reading.  Part of the reason is that I get a kick out of going to my local used book store, tracking down the title, and paying a pittance for a decent used book.  The other cause for my eagerness is to see what literary works he'll be tackling and if they reflect what I studied in school way back when.

I hate to say it but this year I'm a little disappointed with 'the list'.  The great thing is that I actually own six of the nine books on the list.  So, I can greatly appreciate that I'll be shelling out a mere pittance from my lean purse.  The disappointment comes into play when we realize he's read a majority of the books.  What's the problem?

Well, to some of you, you don't actually see a problem.  In fact, you may say something like, "Oh great, then he won't have to read it again" or "English will be an easy A for him this year".  And, when I hear comments like that I shudder deep inside.  Some people fail to understand that when you have a child who is an avid reader, who actually enjoys opening a real book (not a Kindle or other electronic gadget), and who consumes and thrives on the words on a page, a syllabus that lists books he's already devoured is like eating a loaf of stale bread.  Totally unappetizing. 

To a person who enjoys the literary world and gets a type of inner fulfillment by sitting down with themselves and a book taking a class to discuss already explored waters can become rote and mundane.  It's not about not having to read it again.  It's not about an 'easy A'.  To an academically gifted person who excels in language arts it is about the discovery of new characters, new worlds, new expressions, and new points of view.

I am on the fence about bringing this point up with his teacher.  I don't want to start off on the wrong foot and dis (disrespect) his teacher's itinerary.  At the same time, I feel I should share my voice, opinion, and concern.  This time, I probably won't say anything too loudly.  Or, perhaps I'll make an inquiry on Parent's Open House night next week and ask what the motivation was to choose the following books:

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Nicolas has not read this although it looks like an interesting story.  We like dystopian fiction.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Nicolas has not read this and if it were not on his required reading list I doubt he would choose it.  My mother and I saw the movie this past weekend (we have not read the book).  I'm not sure how closely the movie follows the book but I guess he'll have to muddle through this read.  It does not seem like a story that would intrigue a 14-year-old boy.  The discussion on racism will be the saving grace for this choice.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
Nicolas has not read this but after reading a short synopsis it sounds like this might be a winner.  I'm not sure how this fits in with the curriculum other than to engage in empathy for those with mental disorders?  I may be totally off on this one but I will tackle the book myself.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Since the format of this book is comic-style Nicolas read this almost five years ago when it was assigned reading for his older brother when he was in tenth grade.  They have since made a movie of which I've seen.

The Odyssey by Homer
Yay, finally, a classic!  Unfortunately, Nicolas read this two summers ago (under his own initiative).  Luckily, he enjoyed it.  We also watched the high school production two years ago.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Another classic, another book that Nicolas already read under his own volition.  The movie is also one of my favorites.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
A classic that Nicolas has not yet read.  There is also a couple of versions of the movie out there so maybe the teacher will engage the class with a viewing?

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Easily one of my favorites.  The movies are great too.  I especially like the creativity of the remake with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.  I hope the class gets to incorporate any of the movies in their discussion.  Thankfully, Nicolas appreciates Shakespeare and has read a couple of his other plays.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Nicolas read the entire trilogy at the beginning of this summer.  His motive was because the movie is being shot in North Carolina and there may have been an opportunity to be a part of the project.  We all enjoyed the books (see previous posts) and we are all looking forward to the movie scheduled for release in March 2012.  Perhaps the teacher is planning a class excursion to the movie theater?  One can only hope!

I am not sure if this list of required reading reflects the skill level of academically gifted ninth graders.  I think there are too many books of contemporary fiction.  Whatever happened to some of my favorite classics like:  The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, or A Separate Peace?  Perhaps, they are no longer relevant for class discussion.  My dilemma is and has always been to keep my child interested in school by providing new challenges and interesting material.  At the same time I would like him to get good grades.  And I am forever left with the question:

Is it better to be challenged by difficult material which will enhance your knowledge and test your strengths or is it best to be rewarded with an 'A' by exercising mediocre effort because there is nothing to 'up' your game?

Dog Days of August

August has been brutal so far.  Never mind that it has been near or above 100 degrees for the past month at least 80% of the time there is just a lot to do all of a sudden and I can barely muster up the energy to get through the day.

I stay inside most days because here in Raleigh, NC when it's 100 degrees the humidity makes it feel 10 degrees warmer.  You can cut the heat with a knife and get drenched when venturing out even to your mail box.  This kind of heat gives me a headache and makes me extremely cranky.  

Since I have limited access to transportation (we've been down to one car for over two years now) I have to plan running errands on the weekend (first thing in the morning) or during the week in the afternoon if my husband gets home before 5:00 p.m.  I really don't have that much running around to do, truth be told, since I have limited funds but sometimes I just need to get out for a change of scenery.

This past weekend was 'tax-free'.  Meaning, there was no sales tax charged on certain back to school items and some electronic stuff including computers.  I love saving money but I hate crowds so normally I would bypass such an event because it really doesn't add up to much savings if you factor in the aggravation and time spent in line.  However, this year the tax-free weekend coincided with our need for a new computer for our son who is starting high school in a couple of weeks.  His computer died about two weeks ago.  It was over five years old any way.  I really don't know much about technology (I always shut down when people start spewing out terms that sound like a foreign language that I have no interest in learning).  The whole thing just gets me sick to my stomach. 

So, after checking out BJ's to see if they had something in our price-range and compatible to our needs we headed off to Best Buy.  I hate that store.  But, I will say that they had it 'organized'.  Basically, you stood in line and waited for a salesperson to assist you in answering questions and matching your needs with the 'right' computer for you.  After five minutes or so I lost it.  I had a meltdown in the store and had to walk away.  I cried in a corner.  I just got totally pissed that they try to sell you a computer and then there's all of these 'extras' which in my mind should be included in the original friggin price.  Every time I go there I feel like I get bent over and raped.  Warranties, back up systems, tech support...if you really need that stuff then include it in the first place for Christ's sake!

Other things going on that have caused unnecessary anxiety and made this month smell like a dog (hence my usage of the term 'dog days of August'):

- Having to learn how to use a Flip video camera to record an audition and then submit it online.  As I said before, me and technology just do not click so this caused me many a sleepless night.  Never mind the fact that there were lines to remember, lighting to figure out, practice, and cut after cut.  I'm happy to say we made it and I feel glad that I can cross this off my list.

- Nicolas going to 'Flight School' or orientation this week and then starting high school later this month.  My little boy is venturing out on a new chapter in his academic career.  His schedule looks pretty good.  We've been studying for the SAT this summer and doing some math review so I'm confident that he will do well this year.  He knows how important it is to get good grades so that you have a good GPA and class standing when college application time rolls around.

- Sending my oldest son Justin back for his second year of college next week.  The good thing is it is not as stressful as last year when we ended up over-packing and worrying about everything under the sun.  This year he knows what he needs, he knows we can always bring him any additional items at a later time, and we are all much calmer.  This doesn't mean I will miss him any less but we will all feel an emptiness when he leaves.

- The recent inability for our government representatives to work as a team and put the reputation of America and the needs of its citizens first really has me dragging my butt with a sense of dread.  The manic machinations of Wall Street for the last couple of days in response to the dropping of our credit rating has me worried.  And, it is evident that the global economy and world is responding to America's inability to pull it together.  Everyone will be effected by America's inability to get our act together.

And, as we near the end of the dog days of August we approach the serene, and calming cat days of September.  One can only hope!

(Please note:  This post was created on 8/8/11 and edited/posted on 8/30/2011.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Time Last Year Looking Back

It is amazing how much can change in one year.  The contrast between this week and that of last year is so drastic; not quite black versus white but certainly white against a dark, heather gray.

Last year we were feverishly getting Justin ready for his freshman year at college.  Boxes, crates, and duffel bags crowded our dining room for weeks before the morning we left Raleigh and dropped our first-born baby an hour and a half away from home.  The first time our child was on his own.  Nervousness, stress, and anxiety was pretty thick back then.  We just wanted everything to go well and without a hitch.  He made it through the entire year, unscathed, and with passing grades.  We were all happy to have year one under our belts.

This year, by contrast, he's leaving in two days and we have not started to pack.  He knows what to bring and what not to bring.  Basically, last year we over-packed.  This year we are taking the bare basics and if he happens to need something we can always bring it to him in September during Parents Weekend or sooner if it is urgent.  We are all pretty mellow this time around and it is cool.  We will miss Justin just as much, if not more.  But, we know he's only a short drive away.

His first summer home after being on his own went pretty well too.  He worked, hung out with his brother, and pretty much did what he wanted.  I stayed out of his way for the most part and kept the nagging at a minimum.  I'm proud for how much he's matured and conducted himself.  Justin is a great kid but an even better young man.

Most of the change has taken place in our immediate neighborhood.  When we arrived back home after dropping Justin off last year we received terrible news that our neighbor passed away.  I can't believe she's been gone a year already!  Her husband (in his eighties) lived on his own, alone in his 2000 square foot  home up until a month ago.  He had a fall and before we knew it a family member picked him up and moved him to Arizona or somewhere out west.  I feel bad for him and pray that he's coping with his wife's one-year anniversary in heaven.

Our neighbors in the cul-de-sac finally sold their home after listing it on Halloween 2010. This was probably the worst time to list your home.  I knew it was over-priced from the beginning.  Every one should know that the only reason a house doesn't sell is the price.  I believe they ended up reducing their price almost 10% from the original asking price last year.  People just get unrealistic and create a personal attachment to their homes and basically think they are worth more than they really are.  In the past month there has been another four listings sprouting in our neighborhood of 150 or so homes.  This has been the most at one time that I've seen in years. The new neighbors moved in this week.  We haven't met them yet.

The next life-changing moment will come next week when our youngest starts high school.  I cannot stress enough how quickly time flies when you have kids.  I realize now that there is no going back and there are no do-overs.  If I can pass on one thing to the parents of young kids I would stress over and over that you MUST enjoy each and every day with your child.  One day you will look back on the tantrums, sibling arguments, and boo boos and relish in the feeling of being needed by your child.  They grow up way too fast.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Things That Are Not My Cup Of Tea

Yes, many an inspirational book sermonizes the benefits of positivity and love.  While it sounds like an awfully rosy and colorful world if we operated under such a code it is far from realistic.  My theory that in order to reach that higher echelon and continue to ascend the hierarchy of self-actualization one must first clear their mind of all the garbage taking up space.  Call it a mental colonic.  The following are things that irk me, annoy me, bewilder me, or get me pissed off in some way, shape or form.  It is a free-flow list of things that come to mind so there is no rhyme or reason why one might come before or after another.  It is just a random list of things that I've got to get off my chest so that I may embrace my oneness with a more positive outlook on my little world.

1.  Women who smoke during pregnancy.  C'mon people, we know the effects of tobacco not only on smokers but through second-hand smoke.  Do you really have to be that selfish?  Can't you just give up that one addiction for the health and future of your baby for Christ's sake?  I quit smoking months before I got pregnant with my second child.  It was the smartest thing I did.  I believe my conception would have been that much harder had I not conditioned my body properly beforehand.

2.  Tattoos.  I don't care.  Call me judgmental, call me a stuck-up prude.  It just doesn't look nice.  It looks trashy.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am all about self-expression but decimating your body is not the way to do it.  We finally went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the first time this past year and I was totally turned off by the sheer number of tattoo parlors available to vacation-goers.  Never mind the bikers. Nor the bars.  The place just wasn't my cup of tea.  We did find a few places that were 'acceptable' like Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach or my favorite restaurant, The Sea Captain's House, but overall it was not for me.  Tattoos are tacky, period.

3.  'Tea-Partiers'.  It's bad enough you have conservative Republicans but then you add in the far-right wing, radical element and that just fucks things up for the majority of Americans.  The majority of Americans are middle-class or lower and rely on a government that works for them.  A government that hears them and listens to them.  A government that understands their struggles and empathizes with them.  Keeping in mind the unnecessary, nail-biting delay in raising the debt ceiling it is clear to me that most politicians have no appreciation for America's standing in the global economy and how critical it is for each and every one of us Americans to make decisions that are helpful to Americans.  Not favoring one party over another.  These damn politicians appear to let power get to their heads, they forget the struggles of their constituency, and play a pissing game with our future.  My family is directly effected by the caveats of the agreement and I dread round two of getting nothing done when they assemble their so-called committee.

4.  Sarah Palin and her followers.  For real it is mind-boggling how close America got to having a female dingbat as Vice President.  Yes, I'm sure we've had male dingbats hold positions of power previously (Dan Quayle anyone?) but having this broad represent a powerful, political presence was a scary joke.  Her track record of short-lived stints is ever-present in her attending at least five different college institutions before receiving a degree.  Her tenure as governor of Alaska was a mere 31 months, quitting before the end of her commitment.  Her previous appointment as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 7,800 or so) is equally a joke.  To put this in perspective, Wasilla has about one third the population of Wake Forest, North Carolina.  It is barely twice the size of Rolesville, North Carolina.  That's like me going to the local bar and paying for a round of shots just to win some votes.  I'm sure it wasn't a difficult task to round up the posse back in Wasilla.  Women like Sarah should stop making a joke out of how naive some Americans can be.  It takes away from the real women in power, like Hillary Clinton, who exude the intelligence, commitment, and understanding of the majority of Americans.

5.  Parents who don't discipline their kids, are too lenient with their kids, and are out of touch with their kids.  Parents these days seem to have a hard time keeping their kids in line.  They appear to be out of touch with the critters they brought into this world.  First of all, if you cannot control your kids behavior in any capacity don't take them in public and subject the rest of the world to their unruliness.  It is unfair, rude, and bothersome.  If I'm going to spend my hard-earned money on a night out with my family at a decent restaurant you better make sure I can enjoy it in peace and quiet.  A number of times I have told the hostess not to sit us near any kids.  I try to nip that situation in the bud from the beginning.  It is not necessary to bring the entire brood to the supermarket.  But, if you lack the resources for a sitter or your husband is just an inconsiderate bastard and can't watch the kids for an hour be smart about it.  Give the kids a 'job' to do when you are shopping.  Give them each a coupon and have them find the item.  Or, demand their attention by teaching them how to select the proper fruit or item on your list.  Make it a teaching moment about the cost of items or budgeting.  Assign them a task.  Just because Janey or Johnny wants the newest gadget and 'everyone else has it' does not mean they should as well.  Parents these days are more about avoiding confrontation with their kids by giving in to their every demand.  It is a damn shame.  Parents are trying to be the kids friend and avoid being the 'bad' guy.  For those parents so involved in their own life and social drama that they put their job, love life, or own personal goals before the needs of their children you are to blame.  For by being an 'absent' parent you are adding to the cases of teen pregnancies, teen substance abusers, and wreckless and untimely deaths whether by drugs, suicide or vehicles.  As a parent you can't give your kid a blank pass to experience what they think is their right.  It is not their 'right' it is a privilege.

I'm sure there are a few other things that will come to mind after this rant is published but I'll just store it away in my second helping of things I can't stand the taste of.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Secret Notebook

I have this secret notebook, actually it's one of my kid's old composition books that was barely used, and I've entitled it "Pam's Stuff".  I used to keep it on the nightstand by my bed.  Whenever I read a book I would take note of the title and author.  If the book offered some good advice or insight I could relate to I would jot it down for future reference.  I've only been doing this for the last year or so.

Somehow the notebook made its way downstairs onto my desk and I opened it this afternoon with a feeling of trepidation.  I was not fearful of what I would find per se.  But, I knew that the notebook contained many lists of things that I may have not quite gotten to yet.  Inside I've got a page (or two) called 'Bucket List'.  I've also have a list named '4-Year Plan' which takes up a number of pages. In the past, when we were just starting out as a young family, I had made many a list and most (if not all) of my goal-driven lists contained things that I wanted for my family, and my boys specifically.  But, 'Pam's Stuff' selfishly contains only 'stuff' pertaining to me and what I want and need out of life.  It's about time!

The thing is when I'm in the 'right' frame of mind and composing these lists it brings a feeling of liberation.  I am free to dream and free-think my aspirations no matter how far-fetched they may seem.  After all, they are just for me.  But, on the rare occasion that I open the notebook and revisit the pages I get a feeling of angst.  Somehow I know deep inside that I haven't quite gotten on the bandwagon and exercised my right to be all I want to be.  Opening the notebook is like opening up myself for another disappointment.

'Pam's Stuff' also contains quotes that really caught my attention and summaries of books (usually of the 'self-help' variety) that I plan to return to and can use as a reference for when I need that special pick-me-up.

For instance, I read Queen Latifah's autobiography, Put On Your Crown. She offers a lot of practical advice for increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence in order to follow your dreams.  "The trick is to discover who you are and what your passion is early on, then believe in yourself enough to go for it without compromise."  As a 46-year-old woman it seems that I may have missed the boat on this one.  It is only within the last few years that I think I've found my passion but more importantly is that I found the realization that I knew what my passion was the whole time (or since I was a little girl).  The sad thing is that I let all the crap (and life in general) get in the way of believing in myself to the point where I could go for it without compromise.  I let the 'noise' just get in the way it seems.

Another little nugget from Latifah that I wrote down in my notebook is, "Learning to love yourself is one of the hardest and most important things you'll ever accomplish in your lifetime."  Again, it seems to me that I spent more time hating myself and bullying myself than realizing how much time and pain I would have saved if I had only just accepted me for me.  Good and bad.  Beauty and scars.  It is only in the last few years that I realize we only have the power to change ourselves and in order to do that we must first acknowledge our truth.  We should embrace ourselves without the change first because ultimately we are who we are.  Very few of us change.

So, I turn the page in my notebook and glance at the few notes I took from my attempt to read Rick Warren's, A Purpose Driven Life.  I was unable to finish the book because in my mind it was a little too religious and even made me depressed thinking about death too much.  However, I came across the Five Common Things That Drive Your Life:

1.  GUILT.  Running from regrets; hiding shame manipulated by memories; when the past controls the future; unconsciously punishing yourself by sabotaging success.

2.  RESENTMENT & ANGER.  Holding onto hurts; clam-up or blow-up; learning to let go and forgive.

3.  FEAR.  Afraid to venture out; playing it safe; avoiding risks; self-imposed prison.

4.  MATERIALISM.  Temporary happiness; self worth does not equal net worth.

5.  NEED FOR APPROVAL.  Peer pressure.

I totally see how my life has been 'controlled' by guilt, resentment/anger, and fear.  I may have been a victim of materialism and need for approval a long, long time ago but I've grown, matured, and am over those two.  But, I realize that the other three have really got me by the balls so to speak.

My whole life I've been made to feel guilty.  Growing up Roman Catholic did not hurt although we were not devout in any sense of the word.  It seems that I've carried the guilt over into my adult life and much to my dismay, I may even manipulate my own kids with the 'g' word.  Shame on me.  Shame on you.  Shame on all of us!  Guilt sucks and it can gnaw at your self esteem like a termite goes through an oak tree. I have been a self-imposed victim of guilt my whole life.  The challenge is learning how to stop the madness and reprogram myself to know that I am worthy of everything good in my life and what went wrong in the past is not my fault.

Resentment and anger is just regular fallout when you are the child of a dysfunctional family and an alcoholic.  Holding onto the realization that you are a victim of someone else's selfish endeavors and addictions can really piss you off.  Blaming yourself for not being able to control the chaos belittles your confidence.  The torment and helplessness that builds up over the years can overtake and poison all the good that can be in your life.  I spent the last year and a half learning how to forgive and am taking baby steps to letting go of the poisons of the past.

Fear has never gripped me harder than in the last sixteen years.  Yes, 16 years.  The spectrum of fear that has consumed my life has teetered on paranoia at times.  I've always been a 'careful' person and I am definitely one of those mothers who is overprotective.  Look both ways before you cross the street, or you could get hit by a car and die. Don't touch the handrail on the escalator, or you may pick up someone's germs and get sick.  Don't talk to strangers or walk by yourself, because a predator might kidnap you, rape you, and murder you.  Yes, caution in the extreme.

For myself fear has consumed me my entire life.  Fear of the dark.  Fear of people making fun of me.  Fear of public speaking.  Fear of death.  Fear of men finding me attractive.  Fear of letting go.  Fear of being myself.  Fear of being loved.  Fear of success.  Fear of failure.  Fear of my alcoholic father coming home in a rage and killing us all.  Fear of not getting good grades.  Fear that a client will ask me a question and I won't know the answer.  Fear of being used by people who claim they're my friend.  I rarely leave my house these days not only because it is 100 degrees out but mostly because I fear I will be myself in a world that expects people to conform and be socially acceptable.

Today I realize just how much guilt, resentment/anger, and fear have clouded my existence.  I have let them choke my evolution of becoming who I am meant to be.  My passion was killed by these destructive driving forces.

Will I have the strength and determination to beat these villains and resuscitate what makes me want to live?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ode to an Old Friend

What the heck did I do before Facebook?

I guess it was just over two years ago that I discovered Facebook, signed up, and started to reconnect with old friends.  It came at a time in my life when I could really use some extra support and love.  I truly appreciate a lot of the new-found friendships with people I knew from my past.

I began with an extensive list of people who have touched my life in some way, shape, or form.  Then, I extended my search to former classmates, neighbors, and some acquaintances.  At one point, it got totally out of hand and I was friending some people whom I never met but felt that our fondness for certain Facebook games was enough.  Needless to say, some time last year I kind of 'weeded' out those folks whom I truly didn't know or have a connection with or an appreciaton for.

I am not one of those people who measure my popularity or love by the number of 'friends' I have on Facebook.  I've never been popular or with the 'in' crowd.  I'm the type of person who would rather have a handful of meaningful connections than a multitude of acquaintances.  I am at the point, now, to really go through and evaluate who I want to be connected with.  Some may say, "Why are you making a big deal about it?".  But, I have to be honest and reveal that some folks have just pissed me off.

It's been eating away at me that someone that I grew up with and have known since we were young kids has basically ignored my attempts to reach out to them.  I really didn't want to give her the satisfaction of showing that I even cared but I'm not much for hiding my feelings.  The truth is I'm hurt.  Every October 29th I think about her (after all, it's her birthday) and I recall fond memories of our friendship.  Looking back on it, she never appeared to extend the same kindness nor reciprocate birthday wishes.

I've ruminated over what I might have done to her to make her treat me so coldly.  Yes, I posted pictures of us when we were kids.  But, when I look at them I have good childhood memories.  I recall the fun times we had.  I remember the laughter.  I've also thought about her, as a person, and how she may just think she's 'too good' to be associated with me.  Is it because my husband is black?  Is it because I am obese?  I know these are shallow thoughts and conclusions but when I think about her and her personality, I wouldn't put it past her.

The thing I struggle with is expressing how this rejection is making me sad.  It does make me feel less than worthwhile.  It hurts because someone I've loved and cared about as a friend doesn't feel the same about me.  And, it's not like we just met each other!  This is a person whom I've confided in since I was a little girl.  I've gone on vacation with her family.  She visited me at college.  I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

But, we lost touch.  She got married.  Moved away.  I had my family and moved away.  We sent Christmas cards for a few years then, nothing.  I've made the attempts to reconnect.  I've sent e-mails, letters, even a package.  I've got to figure out how to deal with this rejection.

Do I just de-friend her from Facebook and call it a day?  Do I just tuck away all the pictures and memories in a little box and bury it in the past?

How do I let go of an old friend?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Hunger Games

I'm not sure how I got caught up in this but I think it went something like this...

We found out, through Nicolas' agent, that they are filming The Hunger Games in North Carolina this summer.  I didn't know much about it at the time but I was intrigued that it was based on the first book in a series of young adult novels by author Suzanne Collins.  I asked Nic if he would be interested in ordering the series from the library and we did.  It made sense that if an opportunity came about for him that he should be knowledgeable about the project.  Unfortunately, there was a huge wait on the library list so we ended up picking up a copy of The Hunger Games from Target.

Unlike his mother, Nicolas is a fast reader; always has been.  He devours books as if they are candy.  He is one of the few people I know who can actually read in the back seat of a car, while it's moving, and not get motion sickness.  Believe it or not, it has been a challenge to keep him literally fed because he goes through books so quickly.  We used to purchase books from Barnes & Noble and that got too expensive.  Then, years ago when we first moved to Raleigh, we came across this fantastic used book store called Edward McKay Used Books & More.  The '& More' part of the equation includes:  CD's, DVD's, record albums (yes, the old vinyl), video games (all systems new and ancient), and even board games.  When I get the required reading list at the beginning of the school year Edward McKay is usually the first place I hit.  The great thing is you can bring in your media to sell for cash and/or get trade credit.  And, it's a fun place to browse during the week or on a Sunday afternoon.

So, getting back to The Hunger Games.  The day after we purchased the book Nicolas came to me and insisted that I had to read it.  It was much better than he expected.  Luckily, by this time, the second book in the series, Catching Fire, had arrived for Nicolas at the library.  We picked it up and yes, it was completely read by Nicolas that evening.  In the mean time, Nicolas is begging me to read The Hunger Games so that we can discuss it.  I reassured him that I was saving it for vacation.  So, the day before we left for vacation I picked up the last book in the series, Mocking Jay, from Target.  I demanded that Nicolas not open a page until we got in the car to start our two-hour road trip to Carolina Beach this past week.  And, wouldn't you know it.  By the time we arrived at the hotel and got out of the car, Nicolas had finished the entire book.  400 pages in two hours.  Crazy.  He certainly doesn't get this skill from his mother!

So, once I put away our suitcases, got in my bathing suit, and made my way to the pool lounge chair I opened up The Hunger Games.  I proceeded to read it every chance I got during our vacation.  I read until my eyes got tired.  Occasionally, and especially when I got to the good parts, I would put the book down and talk to Nicolas about it.  It was great to have a buddy appreciate the story along the way.  He never spoiled the ending for me but always made me want to proceed.  I finished the book before the end of the vacation and let me tell you, I can't wait to get my hands on Catching Fire.

In the mean time, we are excited to see the movie.  We've been checking out the cast on IMDB and are excited to see an actor from Nicolas' agency, Ethan Jamieson, filling out the roster of tributes.  What an amazing opportunity! 

We've recruited my mother to read the book as well since we'd like to include her in the discussions.  And, we'll probably all see the movie together.  As an aside, I've been trying to rent Winter's Bone from Redbox for the last month so that I can see the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, in her Oscar-nominated role.  She's been cast as the lead character in The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen.  I'm also a fan of Josh Hutcherson who's been cast as Peeta.  I really enjoyed him in Bridge to Terabithia.  Woody Harrelson was a good choice for Haymitch.  I can totally see Elizabeth Banks as Effie.  And finally, I can't wait to see Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.

Reading The Hunger Games has been a rewarding family activity.  It allows for in-depth discussions and debates from three different generations and perspectives.  Seeing the movie will be icing on the cake!