Thursday, November 26, 2015

Seasonal Stress

I'm just going to say it,  I really don't like the holidays.  Maybe because about 75% of my family and friends have birthdays in November and December, right smack in the middle of the holidays.  I've tried skipping Christmas altogether by taking my family on a big international trip.  But, everyone knows you can't skip it, especially with kids.  Leaving before Christmas just means you have to finish your holiday shopping before your departure date, thus shortening and condensing it, making things that much more hectic.

 'Tis the season to be stressed. 

Overthinking everything.  Like why the hell would I even think of getting my kid a leather jacket when he can't even keep track of a hoodie?  Seriously, how many days will he have it until he loses it?  Or are we talking hours?  And how is he ever going get a girlfriend without a hoodie?  Should I give the mailman a gift again this year when I didn't even get a thank you for last years gift?  Did the boy who sang 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause ever get some counseling?  Also, did he grow out of his lisp?   And playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving should be illegal.    In fact, it should be illegal to play Christmas music in stores period.


Take that Connie Francis with your "Baby's First Christmas" song I'm sure you recorded while on Valium.   Because seriously have you listened to it?  Honestly, there is no greater stress than having a newborn AND Christmas.  Babies can't get excited about tearing into the wrapping paper and then playing with the box of whatever expensive toy you just had hand to hand combat with another parent to get the last one on the shelf. No.  You're just freakin' tired, not knowing that you'll never be not tired as a parent ever again.  Especially around the holidays.  Sure, Christmas is fun during those toddler years when they still believe your deceptive lies about flying reindeer and that your favorite cookies are also Santa's.  But when that's all over and the kids are older,  guess what, you realize you're older too.  And much broker.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dinner Dilemma

Every evening is pretty much the same at our house.  I make a delicious, gourmetish home cooked dinner for my family.  Taking into account the season and the weather, because those things are a large factor in what I cook for the night, and then consider the time available to prep and eat it based on the activities I need to chauffeur the kids to either before or after.    But, no matter what I do, the result is pretty much the same...

...eating dinner with kids sucks.

Sure we have some great discussions over a nice meal sometimes.  I'll give you that.  But that is a mere 1% of dinners and it comes at a high price.  And that price is my sanity. Because most dinners I'm reminding the kids not to pet the dogs at the table and  to chew with their mouths closed.  (If you have toddlers and think this kind of rudimentary stuff ends by the time they're teenagers, I assure you, this is NOT the case.)  Most of the time we have the same recurrent discussions, which are really actually recurrent arguments.  Such pivotal life changing things such as is Ford better than Toyota?  Every.  Damn. Night.  Don't even get me on politics.  And random facts you could look up on a computer and have a definitive answer in 3 seconds.  But they won't.  I have begged them to look things up so they would stop fighting.  But no, they enjoy the polemics.   Then I realized something...

It's human nature, we all need a villain.

And after pleading with them to stop, throwing my hands up in the air and then just quietly observing them, I noticed something.  The less they like dinner, the more they will band together in solidarity over their mutual disdain.  The more they like it, the more of their conscious thoughts gets devoted to how much they can't stand each other.  It's so ridiculously obvious!  Humans need something or someone to vilify.   Take a look around, this is kinda what makes the world spin.  Which is why I'm only cooking meals they are guaranteed to hate from now on.  

This is how I'll solve the dinner dilemma and keep the peace.
Either that or I'll sign them up for the debate club at school.    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Old Fashioned Girl

I still hold doors open for people, bring a gift for a party hostess, make eye contact, say nice things to people and/or I'm sorry when I mess up and I read books.  Real tactile books that you can glide your finger along the cover, dog ear the pages, carry around with you and hug to your chest.  Ones that you possess and find a home for on your shelf when you're done reading it, so you can admire it.   Even if you never open it again, you know it's there waiting for you if you do.

And this is where I'm torn, like an old tattered book...

...I know it's not as cost effective, convenient or efficient as a Kindle.  I know it's not environmentally friendly and uses far more oil and trees resulting in more pollution.  And yes, I feel completely guilty about that.  But, not enough to change my ways.  I will burn in hell for this.  At precisely 451 degrees Fahrenheit.  I'm sure of it.  Especially because I just ordered Fahrenheit 451 from just yesterday, even though I've already read it.  And I'm just going to admit right now that I also ordered seven other books in paperback too.  

Because I'm an environmental terrorist.  

And it gets worse.  I also have my music on cd's.  What can I say?  I'm just an old fashioned girl thwarting the high tech world.  Like Clarisse McClellan in Fahrenheit 451, the optimistic outcast in a bookless society refusing to conform for the sake of fitting in, but rather, questioning the meaning of it all.  So when the apocalypse happens and kindle's no longer work, you know I'll be saving all the books.  And you know where to come if you want to borrow a book from my library.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oh the Humanity

This is an article I wrote a year ago for a travel magazine that was never published.  
I'm posting it today in light of the tragedy in Paris.

In this day and age of ISIS and Ebola, it’s easy to lose faith in humanity.  Corrupt politicians and religious leaders are everywhere.  As are natural disasters and seemingly indiscriminate shootings.  How can anyone even consider traveling in times like these?   But, the real question is, how can we afford not to?

I’m as disheartened as anyone else watching the news.  The truth is, I don’t watch it very often anymore.  Because it’s always heartbreaking and I always come away feeling depressed about the things I can’t change in the world.  Fear stemming from hatred exacerbated by regimes resulting in devastation and destruction. Tearing the world further apart, rather than bringing it closer together. 

I’m just one person with a long list of things that I’m not good at or qualified to do.  And Secretary of State, nurse, executive director of an NGO and missionary are very near the top of that extensive list.  Leaving me feeling isolated and helpless to help solve the many problems of the world.  Although it’s a lie.   None of us are insignificant unless we choose to be.  Humans are industrious and adaptable, but never helpless.  

I’ve seen it in my travels all over the world and it restores my hope in humanity.   People are not the politics that govern them, nor the faith that guides them or the economics that may impede them.  In the words of Depeche Mode, “People are people.”  Though our politics, faiths and economics may be vastly divergent, we all share the same basic needs of safety, health and freedom.  We are all simply human. 

Which I witnessed first hand in Egypt in March 2011, immediately after Arab Spring.  Of course I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets two weeks before the revolution that I’d be a witness to history.  Nor did I realize how important it was for Egyptians to see tourists.  Especially at the end of their tourist season in the aftermath of change heading into a long unsure winter. The Egyptians I met on that trip gave me hope that real change, brought about by real every day people is possible.  And I gave them hope that the world still cared about them by simply being there and helping to stimulate their economy one Egyptian Pound at a time.  

I know it doesn’t seem like much.  After all, I didn’t cure anyone of a life threatening disease.  I didn’t change any policies.  But maybe, just maybe, I brought a smile to someone’s face.  Or bread to their table.  And at most, maybe something about me being there changed someone’s perspective on the world, if only for a little while.

When I was at a rug shop in Turkey, I know I did just that.  My husband and I were talking to the shop owner for quite some time about his hand made carpets and his kebab restaurant next door as our kids listened quietly and intently, the way they do when strangers are around.  That’s when he asked the inevitable travel question, “Where are you from?”  When we told him we were American, he refused to believe us and insisted we must be European.  Was it the temporarily obedient children?  Or because we weren’t wearing the stereotypical American uniform of jeans, sneakers and baseball caps?  It was neither.   “You can’t be American!  You’re not fat!”, he exclaimed.  Oddly, he was Turkish, and didn’t have a unibrow.  Go figure.  

On a trip to Italy, I expected that Italians wouldn’t look kindly upon us, traveling with four small children in tow.  I was positive that European children would be much better behaved than my extremely jet lagged American children I was forcing to march thorough the streets of Rome.  What I didn’t expect was for my children to be doted on everywhere we went.  For, get this, their good behavior.  Which to me, didn’t seem very good at all, especially while I was trying to force them to appreciate a foreign culture.   In their defense, they did appreciate the food in Italy a lot though.   

I was living in Morocco when a tsunami struck Japan in 2011.  I was devastated listening to the death toll and destruction.  I’d never been to Japan nor did I have any ties there. But, I had nothing but empathy. That’s when an old friend from high school contacted me about something completely unrelated.  Her uncle was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer and didn’t have money for treatment.  Could I write something her family could use to fundraise on his behalf?  I couldn’t help anyone in Japan.  But this, this I could do.  And it didn’t even require me traveling anywhere except into the creativity of my own mind, to help someone who needed it.  Someone half way around the world from me that I’d never met.  

Sometimes traveling leads you to an exotic destination, sometimes it’s a dream of faraway places while you’re on a staycation in your own home.  Travel is an opportunity to think outside the box and go on an inner journey to the depths of humanity.    To realize that changing the world starts small from inside each one of us.  With an open mind, choosing love over hate, starting in our own communities.   And if we don’t make the journey what hope does humanity have?

ADDENDUM:  I have  Warning to the West by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn an extremely relevant book in these turbulent times in my reading queue.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Woman Envy

You know that woman who always looks put together that you want to be like but you're much, much too lazy to put in the effort?  You kinda admire her and kinda hate her at the same time.  Because seriously, how can one conquer the need to be comfortable and warm for the sake of fashion?  And why would anyone want to?  So seriously, why am I kind of envious of women who do?  It doesn't even make sense.

Because we all want to be something we're not.

At least temporarily.  Like playing dress up.  There's something about trying out a different look that brings out something different in your personality.  As much as I wish it weren't true that clothes affect what you think and therefore, what you project, they do.  And as much as I want to be put together, that would be a lie.  I'm not together at all.  And in addition, I'm no slave to fashion.  

I'm a slave to comfort.

And, if I'm being perfectly honest, to laziness.  So I'm not going to iron a shirt, style my hair or wear the pretty, but itchy underwear I bought for some unknown reason that only crowds my drawer and makes it harder to find my comfy cotton underwear.  I'm also not going to wear a head band, red lipstick, straight black hair, high heels or skinny jeans.  Again.  Really, what the hell was I thinking the first time?  Because times things that look chic on other women, are destined to make you look ridiculous.  Especially when you walk like a trucker in heels.  

That's how woman envy works.  

We get so caught up in how we don't look like Jessica Alba.  This might explain the with the head band, lipstick, straight dark hair, high heels and skinny jean trials.  But in my woman envy, I'd forgotten what truly matters. Substance.  And honestly, what's important is that Jessica Alba's Honest brand sunscreen honestly doesn't work.   Maybe she's just trying to sabotage all the other women she's envious of.  Cause maybe all she wants is just to be comfortable in her own skin.



Monday, November 9, 2015

Just a Phase

You learn so much as a parent.  Mostly, that you don't know jack shit about parenting.  Oh, you knew everything before you were a parent.  But, you forgot all that when a whining, sniveling little person, the neediest human on the planet, started following you around making ridiculous questions and even more ridiculous requests.  And you question how anyone ever deemed you qualified for the role of raising a kid.  But, no one did.  You did.  Because you foolishly thought you knew everything.  Like a teenager.  And you thought you were far more mature than that, but you're not.

Don't worry, it's just a phase.

And phases don't last long.  Well, when you're in them they don't seem to last long, but when you're kid is in one they seem to last forever.  And then you begin to question everything and become religious, even if you're not religious.  It must be my fault that my kid ___________(fill in the blank) because I __________(fill in the blank).  Which isn't nearly as bad as the pleading with god or the universe or whatever you believe in.  Please, please ________________(fill in the blank with the deity or lack thereof of your choice) LET THIS JUST BE A PHASE!!!

Because what if it's not just a phase?

What if it's part of your kid's permanent set of personality traits?  What then?  Even if you can somehow tolerate that super annoying thing (or let's be honest, 'things') your kid does that drives you absolutely insane until they (hopefully)  leave for college and finally begin their own life, you still have to worry about them.  How will my super annoying kid ever keep a roommate with the way she slurps cereal?  And how will he ever find a life partner with his righteous indignation?  Then you feel all defensive.  I taught him/her better.  I did.  I swear.  I did the best I could! 

I thought it was just a phase!  

That's when you plead.  I'm so sorry!  Please don't leave him/her.  Because then they might move back home.  With all that slurping and righteous indignation.  And I've already done my time.  I can't do it anymore!  I'm finally in a good phase in my life.  I feel like a teenager again.  I can slurp my cereal as loud as I want both righteously and indignantly.    

I'm just so phased out!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Name Game

Top definition on Urban Dictionary

While nearly every other woman in America has the middle name Marie, it's my first name.  Other Marie's include:  Marie Osmond and Ray's overly concerned mother in Everybody Loves Raymond.  Don't forget about Marie Antoinette.  So essentially, we're a very diverse group fueled by Weight Watchers, martyrdom and cake.  And somehow, all 3 of those things do seem related.

When I was growing up, I didn't like my name. 

It was too old fashioned and I could never find a key chain with my name printed on it.  Probably because they thought the name had gone extinct.  I don't know why it even bothered me, because as the last of 6 children, no one ever used my name.  I was just called a sibling's name.  Or 5 other sibling's names.  If you call me "Sue-Jim,-Kathy,-Tom-Dan", I will still turn around to this day. 

My dad wanted to name me Mary.

Apparently everyone at school knew that, because I was often mistakenly called Mary.  And I still am by people who see my name and mispronounce it Mary.  Either that or I'll say my name is Marie and they'll spell it Mary.  Because, again, apparently the name has all but gone extinct.  

Except in Miami, where it's pronounced Maria. 

So I went from having no name, to Mary, then Maria in grad school when I lived in Miami.  It didn't help that I accidentally dyed my hair black during that period.  (It was supposed to be temporary!)  Or that I spent a lot of time at the Cuban sandwich place by my work.  Where they would call the order for "Maria" and 20 women would rush to claim it.  Including me.  

I love my name now because it's classic, but also pretty unique.

Although no one calls me by my name now.  I'm just "Mom" these days.  Or "Ma'am" when I'm at Costco.   Not that anyone ever did call me by my name.   It makes me want to sing that Destiny's Child song,  Say my name!  (And trust me, you don't want to hear me sing.)  And if you do, for god's sake, pronounce it correctly!  

Just for fun, Google your name on Urban Dictionary and see what it says about you.  



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