Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on the Book Room and My Struggles with Being an Adult

I love to read.  Joining a book club has been one of the best things I have done for myself.  Often times, it pushes me to read books that I would never think to read.

Case in point, Room by Emma Donoaghue.  It’s not my usual type of book since reading about a traumatic kidnapping of a young woman who is forced to have a baby while living as a captive in a very small room gives me hives.  I gave it a whirl (because I’m a team player), but I ended up being totally entranced that the first-person narrative was a five-year old son of the kidnapped victim.

The Room is everything to this child.  He has no awareness of the outside world and thinks everything on TV is not real.  Since he only knows his mother (and has to hide at night when the abuser comes to see the young woman), he personifies the objects in his room.  When he and his mother escape, all he wants to do is go back to see Room.  The little boy has a tremendously difficult time adjusting to the outside world and mourns for the safety of Room, so his mother and a police officer take him back to Room.

When he returns, the little boy doesn’t recognize it.  It’s smaller than he remembered and nothing looked the same.  His perspective had changed once he experienced life outside of those four tiny walls.

Even though the context of this story is gut-wrenching, I thought his attachment to Room and his altered perspective were an achingly beautiful metaphor for growing up.  And strangely enough, I totally relate to this little boy.

I feel these past six months have been really weighing down on me: I’ve been doing some major work on shifting the way I view myself as I’ve been strengthening my personal boundaries.  Often times, I just want to quit and go back to the way things used to be.

Except they can’t.  Because I am different.  I have witnessed life outside of Room, and now everything has changed.  I’m no longer the same person who reacts to the madness around me.  I no longer think that I am self-indulgent if I’m making time to take care of myself.

But still, I struggle.  Part of being an adult is accepting situations for what they are, yet that does not mean accepting means that I have to participate in the same unhealthy way.  This is the hardest part for me.  My therapist says it’s the internal battle between my adult self knowing what to do to protect me, and the little girl part of me waiting for someone else to step in and take over.

And I would say that is true.

In what ways do you struggle with being an adult?  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best of Pinterest: Photoshop Tutorial by Lisa Edoff

A few weeks ago, I did something I thought I would never do.  I downloaded the Pinterest app on my phone.  I didn’t really think it would amount to much to anything.  I mean I wasn’t one of those people who were constantly falling down the Pinterest black hole of time suckage – how harmful could it be?

I was wrong.  So very wrong.  I am *constantly* on Pinterest.  In fact, I take Pinterest breaks throughout the day, much like some people take a cigarette break . . . except without the nicotine and carcinogens.  It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, and sometimes I just need a mental break to look at something beautiful or delicious or interesting.

I don’t want to collect all this knowledge in vain; therefore I have decided to try out a new weekly series called Best of Pinterest in which I will spotlight one of my favorite pins.  Here’s the thing about Pinterest – there are a lot of awesome visuals, but sometimes the links are not that great.  I will have test run the pins before writing about them so I know they are good to share.

The first pin I want to write about is from a blogger named Lisa Edoff at A Piece of Lisa.   Photoshop Tutorial: Learn Basic Photo Editingto Enhance Colours/Light/Contrast is so easy to use, and my photo looked amazing!  

Here’s the pin I found:

Here’s my before picture:

Here’s my after picture:

Did those fall colors pop or what?!  I feel like a Photoshop superstar!

Thank you, Lisa, for posting this awesome tutorial!  It has totally boosted my confidence in my Photoshop skills.

Have you found anything interesting on Pinterest lately?  Also, I would love it if you followed me on Pinterest, too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Daily School Routine

Um, I’m not sure if you noticed, but the first day of November begins next week.  When did that happen?  It seems like just last week I was getting ready for the first day of school, and now it’s days before Halloween with Thanksgiving sneaking up very soon.

Even though the leaves have been changing colors and I’ve been indulging in everything pumpkins spiced (except coffee creamer because that tastes how I would imagine pumpkin spice scented soap from Bath and Body Works would taste like), I feel like I have finally settled into a routine. Part of the reason may be because Harrington has been traveling a lot or maybe time just seems to be moving that fast.  Who knows?

What I do know is that after this *supposed* last day of mild weather, any remnants of summer will be gone, and with it, so are the days of sleeping in until 8am (which is the equivalent of sleeping in until noon since before that my kids were waking up at 6:00am) and not having to urgently rush to some place.  There will be no more ice cream on the swing set as the sun sets.  Week-long family vacations adventures will be on hiatus, too.

But the pressure of managing two kids all. damn. day. is gone, too.  I won’t be stressing about my lack of motivation to do something other than turn on the TV because the weather is so hot.  (I try not to complain about the weather and find the good in each season as I wrote here at the Detroit News MichMoms blog, but I have learned that heat and humidity sucks my will do anything faster than any cold snap).

However, as the very wise man Jerry Seinfeld once said, “You can’t have the this without the that.”  The tradeoff is getting up early to work out and making lunches.  It’s also kind of sad that I don’t see my babies all day, and I find myself reminiscing about the days of being on lockdown due to the nursing/nap schedule.

I need to be honest, and I know this might not be in line with the popular consensus, but I’m OK with getting up early and having to be at the bus stop at a certain time; it keeps me motivated.  What can I say, I thrive on a deadline.

I may not see Marie all day, but I try to make the time we spend together count, whether it’s when we do homework or driving to swim.  Because going to school all day and exploring outside interests is the natural order of things, I really stress quality over quantity.  Also, I am able to have some valuable one-on-one time with Thomas, which he really needs right now.

I am sure that when June rolls around I will be more than ready to ditch the schedule for new adventures.  I can also promise with great certainty that I will be excited for September when balance is then restored.

What do you think about your school routine?  Love it?  Hate it? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Philosophy on Discussing Politics

 someecards.com - I like to discuss my politics like I get ready in the gym locker room: quietly, discreetly, and with great personal space for the completely naked person standing next to me.

I love Facebook.  I love Twitter.  I am starting to take my relationship with Google+ to the next level.  I am flirting with Path.  Regardless of the platform, I love social media.  I love emotional transaction I have across all my favorite social media channels.
Having said all of that, there is a super fine line of harassing and over sharing.  There is even a finer line between sharing and preaching.  And nothing like a political election to completely erase any lines of civility and respect.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that my Facebook feed has been cluttered with people preaching yelling sharing their political views.  I totally support respectful, intelligent political debates mixed with a passion.  I giggle at the funny, witty comments (look at me! I’m in a binder)!

What I feign is the spewing of a personal view point as fact (without documentation – a leftover occupational job hazard from my English teacher days).  And what’s worse is the berating of an individual when he/she disagrees with said personal view as fact.

Here’s the thing: when you post something controversial in an inflammatory way, whether it be political or not, chances are people who disagree with you are going to comment.  I am so sick and tired of the bullying and retaliation.  I am tired of those who aggressively and irresponsibly use their freedom of speech.  I am exhausted that these individuals do not own that their way of belligerently communicating their views *may* not persuade others to see your point of view.  And I don’t know what is worse – the original domineering comment or the condescending way of expressing their point of view.

It’s aggravating.  It makes me itchy and cringy.  Some of these rants get so out of control that I find myself saying, “This is ridiculous!   I totally don’t agree with this at all.  Oh, wait.  I do agree.  My vision was just clouded by all venom of their negativity.”  Most of these hostile zealous tirades are between family members.  And I’m not sure if anyone has done the math, but after the election, we will all be in the same room in 3-7 weeks due to a little thing called the holidays.  This may not bother the instigators, but I am going to work out like a crazy person because I know that I will be relying on carbs and wine to get through those awkward moments.       

I just don’t see why more people don’t take a page out of this amazing book of the Twitter sensation @PaulRyanGoseling and use some humor to get the point across.  Here’s a wonderful example of how to influence without being an ass:


Here’s my bottom line: Be passionate!  Be excited!  Be inspired! (And if you are a superstar, be funny)!

But don’t be rude and disrespectful just because other people have a different view.

It’s causing me anxiety.  And I am having a hard time not eating my feelings and gaining weight because my Facebook feed is lacking finesse and manners.

How are you handling the crazy political frenzy in your social media feeds?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gift of Presence

Today is my birthday.  I usually love my birthday.  Love. It.  I revel in the celebration.  I eat tons of cake and ice cream and junky carbs as I can.

This year is a little different.  It’s been a difficult six months.  I’ve been closely examining my personalboundaries in regards to bullying.  I’ve been working hard on accepting myself and honoring my limits.  I’ve been putting a lot of effort into creating the best version of myself so I can be good to others.

It’s exhausting, really.

And needless to say, it has not been easy.  I know that one of my gifts from the Babes is the new No Doubt CD.  (Thanks for the not-so-obvious hint, Thomas)!  I am super excited to open it later tonight, but I have to say that my kids have already given me the best gift that has transformed me in each and every way.

The gift of presence. 

I am so incredibly thankful for this gift of living in the moment.  They take this awesome gift for granted because they are constantly living in the moment.  But as a planner, living in the moment has been a challenge.  It means taking the time to be quiet and value what is happening right here, right now.  And because of this, I not only see the beauty of the moment, but I feel it in a way I never had experienced before.

When Thomas wants to cuddle on the couch with me and watch Doc McStuffins or when Marie wants to hold my hand as we walk to the bus stop, I quiet that voice that says laundry needs to get done or we need to hurry before the bus comes.  All these little moments add up to one, big life and I don’t want them to slip away.

But even more than that, living in the moment with my kids has given me strength to protect my priorities with great intensity.  This is not easy, and it’s not like I live in this Zen state all the time (who does with a three year old?), but I can say that my joyful moments are more joyful.

I am thankful to these little teachers for inspiring me to create the life I’ve always wanted.

I can’t say that I *love* the idea of the smile lines that seem a little deeper around my eyes, but I can say with great certainty that I love the sense of strength I get from my gift of presence.

What do you like most about your birthday?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Story of Being Bullied

Last week, I wrote a post for the Detroit NewsMichMoms blog about the bullying my daughter has faced on the bus.  As a mother, I am outraged.  As I say in my post, I refer to the bucketdipping analogy because it makes sense to me: no one (at least at this young age) is inherently bad and there is a definite cycle to bullying.  It’s really all about the bully’s issues, not so much the victim’s issues.

 My rage runs deep because it brings up my memories of being bullied in school.  I was awkward with my glasses and retainer.  I was self-conscious because, for some reason, I just didn’t feel like I fit in with other kids.

In fourth grade, there was this one girl, Sunny*, and she always seemed to lay into me about something.  I wore glasses.  My hair was too blonde.  I wore a retainer.  I wore age-appropriate clothes.  I got good grades.  I asked too many question in class.  It was always something with her.

The bullying had been going on for a while, and my parents told me to ignore her so she wouldn’t see me upset.  Of course, it continued to escalate, and I could feel the anger my parents had because their daughter was hurting.  And this is when they told me to do the unmentionable.

They told me to hit her. 

Instead of feeling empowered that I could just smack the shit out of this bully, I only felt an extra heap of anxiety.  I wasn’t a fighter, but I felt like I would be letting my parents down if I didn’t get this girl to shut up and leave me alone.

One day, in music class, she said something horrible (which I don’t exactly remember) while the teacher wasn’t paying attention.  Everyone started to laugh at me.

That was it.  I got up out of my seat and tried to smack her.  I can’t remember if I actually smacker her or not.  I pretty much blocked out the whole incident.  I remember crying and running out of the room in the middle of class, but that’s about it.

The next day (or maybe it was later on the same day since everything is blurry), I sat down in the principal’s office while he told her to leave me alone.  In retrospect, I am not quite sure how I did not get in trouble for smacking someone and then leaving class.  Anyway, she got a few more digs in and left me alone, only to have someone else start where she left off.  I felt that something was obviously wrong with me since I was being bullied again.

Looking back, Sunny had family issues that I am sure where the cause of her acting out, and I just happened to be an easy target.  I am pretty sure that her bucket was not being filled at home but at the time, I never considered her story because I was only reacting to her abuse. 

Years later, I have learned that real power and real strength comes from not reacting or even just ignoring the abuse.  The fear and unworthiness that comes with being bullied makes it difficult to sustain the appearance of ambivalence.  The power and strength come from having personal boundaries, of knowing that you deserve to be around people who treat you with kindness.

I try so hard to teach my kids how to maintain personal boundaries and trust their instincts to keeping themselves protected.  It’s so important more than ever with the dawn of social media within in a society that accepts bullying.  I mean look at this story from Today Moms.  Ann Coulter used the word “retarded” in a derogatory way, and a blogger who is a father to a special needs child wrote about how this upset him and wants an apology. 

If this is happening with so called educated adults, it’s for sure going to happen on the school bus and the playground.  A lot of these adults still claim that words are just words, which is maddening because it is taking no ownership for the hurt those words cause and perpetuates the cycle.

I hope that by teaching my kids to respect the power of words and personal boundaries, they can truly move on from a heartless remark with understanding (and maybe a dash of compassion) that the abuser has probably been the subject of the same hurtful behavior.

I want to break the cycle.

But this?  This is not easy. 

Have you been bullied?  How did it affect you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Daisies Badges

On an impulse, Marie decided to join Daisies (formerly known as Bluebirds). 

At first my reaction was to say no.  I like to avoid organized groups like the hantavirus.  (By the way, California, you have one year to get this situation under control since that is when we will meet again).

My experience with Brownies and Girl Scouts was not what I would refer to as awesome.  (But Bluebirds rocked!)  (Which may or may not be related to the fact that my Mom was the Bluebirds troupe leader; I have fond memories of Christmas caroling and drinking hot chocolate).

However, Daisies do crafts and activities that are all centered on learning new things.  Marie’s favorite thing in the whole world is learning, second only to arts and crafts.  I mean, she has taken it upon herself to teach herself about the presidents of the United States, the Great Depression, and anything about the Olympics.

In efforts to help her find her niche, I put my personal feelings about organized groups.

Which I thought totally earned a badge, right?

Actually, since she started Daisies two week ago, I think I have earned the following badges:

Iron-on Success – You earned this badge by diligently reading the instructions on the back of the starter badges and successfully ironing them on to the vest.  Extra points earned for lining up all the numbers in a straight line and making sure everything is in the correct place.  You are well on your way to earning your sewing badge (which I don’t know how to do and was secretly one of the reasons I didn’t want Marie to join Daisies).

Last Minute Target Run - Parade is tomorrow and you were feeling all proud about the vest.  Oops!  Forgot to purchase khakis!  You earned this badge for running to Target when you would rather have been in your jammies watching the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy.  You get extra points for buying the correct size on the first try and ironing the hell out of them.

Shelving Feelings about Homecoming Badge – As I said, I generally dislike organized group, which I think stems from the fear of being left out and not fitting in.  And these are the exact reasons I do not have warm, toasty memories of homecoming.  I only went twice, and they were both disasters.  You deserve this award for putting those icky feelings aside and allowing only joy for your daughter to shine through. 

On a related note, Marie can make up her mind about the whole homecoming experience on her own when she’s in high school. Given she doesn’t restrict the blood flow to her brain by the way of tight jeans.  Seriously, have you seen how tight the jeans that high school girls wear?  Or maybe they’re tights and they forgot the skirt.  Either way.

(Seriously, do I sound like an old lady yet, or what?) 

I look forward to sharing the other badges I earn this year, right along with Marie.

Tell me, is your child involved in an activity you do not love?  Please share with me so I don’t feel like such a bad mom.