Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watch Out - Mommy Bloggers Coming Through!


According to a guest post on ProBlogger written by Michelle Mitchell from Scribbit, mommy blogs are the next big thing. As my mother would say (and now me from time to time), "From her mouth to God's ears."

She bases her article, "Five Reasons Why Mom Blogs are the Blogs to Watch" on the uber-successful mom blogger, Dooce, and how that piece raised awareness of our viable, potential for money-making community. Moms listen to other moms about what to buy, where to send their kids to school and play, and the newest, hottest trends. To date mom bloggers are an untapped resource for advertisers. Hopefully not for long.

But keep in mind the valuable message written by Lindsay Ferrier in Surburban Turmoil a few weeks ago: Remember why you're writing the blog in the first place and don't let marketing and money get in the way of your original purpose.

Thanks, Michelle, for shining the light on our "little" community. Respect for mommy bloggers everywhere!

Where Has All The Real News Gone?


I wish news would go back to being, well, news.

I used to love watching the TODAY show for my morning info download but 6 months ago I stopped. I miss Matt Lauer's company with my morning tea and oatmeal but if I don't catch the 7-8am hour, I'm shit out of luck in hearing any actual news. I have to sit through three hours of lifestyle, fashion, and pop culture fluff for a total of less than five minutes of hard news. Yes, I know the show's ratings are soaring but they've lost me as a viewer - so there!

I now "look" to radio and papers for my news. I especially like public radio. They don't answer to advertisers therefore can actually report real news: politics, war, the economy - go figure.

I bring this up because you can't make a move today without seeing or reading commentary on the Miley Cyrus photo shoot. Yes, I spoke about it yesterday but ONLY in the interest of showing everyone how we are being played by the press!

I guess it's a slow news day aside from tornadoes in Virginia, a 73 year old father keeping his daughter as a sex slave, and 31 polygamist sect teenagers pregnant with older men's children (now that's where growing up in prim and proper cultures gets ya!), the world is pretty much same ol', same ol': gas prices keep going up, home prices keep going down, and the President still speaks and says nothing. So it makes sense that the media take the Cyrus photo and blow it all out of proportion. They need us! Each one of us they reel in means more do-re-mi from advertisers which means they get to keep their jobs (and if you're listening to the economic news you know that's no easy feat).

So, let's chalk this Vanity Fair photo shoot off to a case of parental poor judgment and LET IT GO! Don't assume the worst, that it was a manipulation to get more publicity - what the hell does 'almost a billionaire' Miley Cyrus need more publicity for? You loved her two days ago, now she's a money-grubbing bitch? Please. She's growing up, her audience is growing up, she and her family are just trying to figure out how to keep up.

Let's stop giving all this media created nonsense so much attention - there's real news going on out there. Pay attention to it, stop listening to and reading all the gossip. Maybe then there'll be less of this inanity to suck up our precious time.

A person can hope, no?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus "Topless" Photos: Media Manipulation and Puritanical Frenzy


Puh-leeeze! I know I will get backlash for my opinion but have you seen the Vanity Fair photo that the media has labelled "topless"? Get real! I've seen more skin on 5 year olds at the neighborhood swimming pool! The media has sold us a bill of goods and now all of us lemmings are up in arms.

Have we learned nothing? Go back as far as fairy tales like Snow White and Rapunzel (and countless others) where teenage girls are shut away or "killed" because of their burgeoning sexuality. Read "Raising Ophelia" or "Queen Bees" to see modern day examples of parents in fear of their daughter's sexual maturation. It is a difficult time to be sure, but there is nothing any parent can do to stop it short of parenting them the best that we can.

Lin Burress who writes a great blog entitled, Tellin' It Like It Is, believes these photographs taken by Annie Liebowitz are offensive and illustrate the decline of parental moral values. A rash of vitriol broke out amongst her commenters arguing over whether or not our children are going to hell in an overstuffed Bratz-filled hand basket.

In Lin's defense, I do agree we have a huge problem with the premature sexualization of our children as she reports so well in this post; but I do not believe the VF photos are a symptom, a cause, or in any way relevant to that argument.

I don't think it was the best image choice for today's teenage "IT" girl but I think it was purely that - a matter of choice. Miley Cyrus is, at this point, one of the only if not THE only teen idols not yet besmirched by drugs, alcohol, late-night partying, sex, and teen pregnancy. Do we really think this merits the same lambasting as Paris, Lindsay, and Britney? At this rate, we'll never find a true teenage idol- idol should not mean idealized. No true teenager could stand up to that standard - we do not live in the age of Sandra Dee and Gidget.

Give the girl a break. Do you think it's easy living your young life in the spotlight? It's destroyed many before her. So she's got boyfriends, many girls her age do, they just don't have cameras and reporters following their every move. Can you imagine? Have you been to a high school campus lately? And if you think that supports the argument against Miley's photos just think back to your own high school days of make-out sessions, midriffs, short shorts and god knows what else you were doing that you didn't want your parents knowing about. A bare back is not the reason so many of our kids are screwed up.

Miley's got talent and moxie (yes, I said moxie) which sets her apart and is the reason for her success. She lives in a fast world where sex, drugs and money are the norm. She is rushed each day by corporations and individuals wanting something from her be it an autograph or a bite-sized piece of the Hannah Montana pie. Disney does an amazing job in this fast-paced, global culture of appealing to our hip kids while helping us keep our children children for as long as possible. I think we need to give them and the Cyrus family a bit more credit.

Maintaining innocence is not an easy job these days, apart from this bit of poor judgment, they're doing it better than anyone. As a parent who has reluctantly watched almost every episode of Hannah Montana, not to mention the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and others, I am thrilled that my children prefer Disney Channel to Nickelodean where shows like Drake and Josh endlessly portray kids in search of make out time and in one episode actually used the word scumbag twice. (That brought the show to a close in my house.) Where were the critics for Full House or other "sweet, family" shows from the '80s? This iconic show of a loving family teaching loving, family life lessons has in it more kissing and sexual innuendo than any episode of Hannah Montana I've seen to date.

I don't love that my kid's idol has been seen flashing her bare back and tummy but who is the audience for Vanity Fair (she's NOT on the cover!) and YouTube? If you let your kids read or watch either of these they can find something way more offensive than this. Sure, now I'll have to have a conversation with my kids about these photos because they're "out there" but I had a much harder time talking to them about Jamie Lynn's pregnancy and Britney's maternal wake of destruction.

Mistake? Poor choice of Miley's? Yes. Debacle. End of childhood as we know it? Definitely Not.

The First Amendment is here to stay people. We must deal with these issues in the home. It's our responsibility as parents to supervise what they have access to and to explain the world as it is to our children not shelter them from it. It's a universal culture out there, countries and cultures that existed for us in textbooks and pictures are real and accessible to our children through the internet. Teach your children how to handle all the information that's thrust at them, embrace the technological revolution and all the messy stuff that comes with it.

You have no choice - your kids are going there with or without you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How Long Will You Live?

A friend sent me this test on life expectancy and health from yesterday's NYT. I don't think it's a completely accurate assessment just by virtue of the minimum information it requires but it's interesting nonetheless.

I'll share mine if you share yours...

Here's the link,
if you dare...


Technorati Profile

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Celebrity Sighting: Life Threw Me a Bone

Living in Los Angeles, a celebrity sighting is nothing novel. Most of the time I'm not interested, (except for the time I saw Larry David at the local farmer's market - now that was exciting!).

Yesterday, in my little town, I saw Jamie Lee Curtis, recently made famous by her AARP photo spread and Kristin Wiig's impression of her speed-eating ACTIVIA yogurt. I struggled with not wanting to be another fawning fan. Should I, shouldn't I? The pull was strong.

You see to me, JLC, is not just another beautiful, talented, Hollywood actress, wife of quirky, humorous director, Chris Guest, daughter of two iconic film stars; she's a successful writer whose children's books I've loved for years. In fact, what makes me feel even more of a connection to her (albeit unrequited) is that once upon a time we shared the same idea for a book. Before hers was published I spent months working on my approach but couldn't make it work. She birthed the idea one afternoon and wrote the damn story that same inspiration-fueled night. It's entitled, WHERE DO BALLOONS GO?, and because I had struggled so, when I read it, I appreciated what a phenomenal writer she is. She manages to talk to kids about important age-appropriate issues in a light-hearted and respectful manner. I enjoyed her books just as much as my kids.

This sighting was cool but what made it even cooler was that she asked me about my writing and took the time to give me advice about where to submit my short stories. It's funny. Maybe all this talk about mid-life assessments and reaching for your dreams opened me up to the opportunity to find inspiration from someone I admire. I don't think I would have had the courage to call myself a writer before and most likely would not have approached her. Life is funny that way, it's constantly throwing you bones but until you're hungry enough you don't take notice.

Here are links to Jamie Lee's books. If you're a parent of a young child and you haven't read her books, you must. The illustrations by Laura Cornell are wacky, unique and excellent as well.

Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day
Big Words for Little People
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born
Is There Really a Human Race?
When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth
I'm Gonna Like Me : Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
It's Hard to Be Five : Learning How to Work My Control Panel

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taking the Leap - Into the Second Half

I looked around the flower covered table at my "mommy" friends and I felt lucky. I have good friends, good family, and a good life yet there's something missing...

me.

I spent much of today at a friend's 50th birthday party: a beautiful luncheon in a gorgeous Beverly Hills hotel. Twenty-five or so women, most if not all moms, dressed up, put on make up, scented ourselves with perfume and, if only for a few hours, were true ladies who lunch. Excited to be in an elegant setting on a beautiful Spring day with wine and hors d'oeuvres served to us by others we acted like giddy schoolgirls.

We talked about what it means to be 50 and hitting the second half of our lives. We laughed and cried while reminiscing about our past escapades and professing our love for each other despite the fact that we get little face time. We vowed to return each other's phone calls and emails more often, to make more plans for group dinners, to be better friends.

With the recent news about lower life expectancy for women, I'd already been thinking about this phase of my life; how I want to spend it and with whom. I realize the news focused on obese women and women in general poor health (of which I am neither) but after watching a 35 year old non-smoking friend suffer through two battles with lung cancer one can never be too certain.

While walking this morning it suddenly hit me that I've probably spent more days on this earth than I have left. Sure that's true of other mid-lifers, but me? Beyond it's morbid nature, the equation frightened me. If I were to consider my life's journey like climbing Mount Everest it's as if I was heading downhill before ever coming close to the summit. I wondered, do I have enough time left? The question packed a stunning punch. It took only seconds to calculate how many years I'd spent dreaming my dreams, talking about them, putting them on the back burner to foster those of others. Or is all that just an excuse and is fear of failure worth dying without making it to the peak of my Mount Everest?

I'm hoping I can use this epiphany to kick my butt into writing, not just blog writing, but writing others will want to publish. In other ways I've prepped for the second half of my life: I've cleaned my house of toxic people, I know what makes me happy and speak up when something doesn't, I've developed the confidence to own up to my failings without slinking off into a dark corner to beat myself mercilessly.

Now if I could only get this other part right...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cindy McCain - Our Next First Lady?!?!


Cindy McCain, potential first lady of this great nation gets her shot on The View to defend "recipegate" and what does she do? She throws an intern under the bus. I paraphrase, "I just don't know how it got there...but whatever". She jokes about putting accused intern into Betty Crocker boot camp and uses the plagiarism scandal to plug a book she will write about the ups and downs of political life.

Huh? Did I miss something?

Watch the video

Between she and Elizabeth H., at least the Republicans got good hair...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chasing the Horseradish High: Tale of a Jewish Mommy's Burnout


I got aroused Saturday night during a Passover seder...

by a bitter herb.

As a child, I remember Passover seders as interminably dull. Despite our reformed and abridged (that's putting in mildly) adherence to the tradition, I wriggled and writhed in my seat desperate for a morsel of food and a chance to go watch television. As an adult, seders have become a place to enjoy friends and family, check-in with my religion, and make sure I'm spiritually on the right track. But I never thought about the traditional Jewish ceremony as a place to get titillated.

Gefilte fish is a tightly packed, oval brick of chopped fish, usually whitefish and pike. It's served cold and usually clings to some of the clear gelatinous substance in which it's packed, like a newborn before it's made presentable to the parents. I look forward to Passover's menu not so I can eat this gag-invoking appetizer but for the beet-infused horseradish that accompanies it. I slather this red paste over the fishy white pod methodically preparing the perfect synergy of color and flavor. At first bite the sweet burst of beets transforms into an intensifying burn that swells into my sinuses like a cloud of cleansing heat. I surrender to it, a willing victim of the pleasure/pain principle.

I joke with other horseradish "users" at the table about chasing the horseradish high and I wonder, isn't much of life about chasing the high - seeking out the orgiastic euphoria of senses we know and those we only dream about?

I was reminded of a recent Oprah episode where a father and son discussed their rashomon accounts of the son's decade-long drug addiction. The son, now an adult, recalled his first interlude with crystal meth as, after years of feeling lost and alone, finally finding his life's sweet spot. No subsequent ride with the drug mimicked his virgin voyage but he desperately pursued his bliss nonetheless.

Putting the truly dangerous addictions aside, don't we all seek out our life's sweet spot in less death-defying ways? Isn't that what recapturing our youth and mid-life crises are about? We try to locate when and where we got off track; reconnect to our dreams, feel alive.

When I was young I got excited by good grades, wild parties, binge drinking, great sex, warm Pillsbury slice 'n bake cookies, and the intoxicating validation of a new boyfriend. Life was bursting with opportunities, ambition, and hope. These days my thrills come in more restrained, politically correct forms: The first daily bite of a quality dark chocolate, the first soothing sip of a red wine, the giddy recognition of a beautiful, new friendship, and watching The Tudors. (Come on, you know it's true.)

The chase is enervating but most often frustrating in it's fleeting nature; though I suppose it's what keeps me from petrifying into a Pompeii-like statue of 21st century domestic boredom.

Some sky-dive to feel alive, others cheat on their spouse: so sue me if horseradish is my current mistress.

Tomorrow I'll take up shoplifting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BLOG HELP IS OUT THERE

Given my hysterics in the recent post, ALERT: THIS BLOG IS KILLING ME, I thought some of you bloggers who experience the same anxiety might be interested in an article I found written by Jesse Hines for Vigorous Writing. The bottom line advice is "get back to the basics of why you started the blog" and "enjoy".

Sounds pretty obvious. I'm game.

Randy Pausch Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

For those of you who haven't seen this you need to spend an hour with this man. You will not be wasting your time. You will laugh, cry and definitely be inspired.

WANTED: POLITICAL BREAK UP AND FAST

I don't know about you but I'm fed up with the Democratic candidates. It's a shame because until recently I loved them. I was excited for our country, I even had HOPE. For the first time in forever I believed the Dems had two amazing, inspiring, completely capable candidates; my only frustration was deciding between them.

Now I can't stand either one. It's like the boyfriend you fell head over heels with, spent all your time with, invested all your hopes and dreams into, only to look at him in one instant and want to vomit.

I feel bad, I really do, but Hillary and Barack have become so nasty, the perpetration and defense of their gaffes so loud, that I can no longer hear them when they speak about policies. (Policies?? Are they important in a political debate?? Hmmm.) I'm having trust issues and besides that, they're both starting to annoy me.

I hope Pennsylvania ends this bad relationship one way or the other. Barack, you think the Pennsylvanians are bitter - they're not the only ones.

We need a break-up and we need it fast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CALLING ALL WRITERS: TO MFA OR NOT TO MFA...


...that is the question. As you can tell by my previous posts I'm feeling quite scattered and dissatisfied with how I'm spending my days of late. I've boiled my discontentment down to this: I want to write. This blog has started me on the path toward my goal but without a community to provide feedback and editing, I'm just spitting in the wind. I did not major in English or go to grad school and I'm envious of those who can quote great authors and write beautiful prose.

Have any of you earned an MFA? Do you think it's a valuable commitment of time and $$ if what I want to do is learn the craft and hopefully publish someday? My preferred forms of writing are short stories and personal essays so it's not like I'm hoping to publish the next great American novel I just want to be the best that I can be (hokey but true). Do you think it's possible to get an MFA (I live close to UCLA) and still be available for my school-age kids? If I should get an MFA is doing one online a good option?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The COUGAR Den at Saturday Night Live April 12, 2008

Here's the clip I referred to in yesterday's post. If you have not seen it you must! You can thank me later.

ALERT: THIS BLOG IS KILLING ME


As parents we talk incessantly about the over-scheduling of our children - the homework, tutors, piano lessons, sports, the internet. But what about us? By the time I reach the bathroom in the morning I'm already short of breath thinking about the tasks ahead of me.

The NYT article about blogger burnout and the advice I researched hasn't helped. I'm an addict - addicted to keeping up in the blogosphere and it's a mad, mad, mad, MAD world out there. I'm trying to stay present, meditate, be "in the now", I'm even participating in the Eckhart Tolle/Oprah class but that's time away from my computer - I'm overwhelmed! I want to achieve my best in my home business and my blog (not to mention everything else!) and I'm already at risk of burnout after only a few months.

I blame the internet. Expectations are much higher now given the easy access to information; I'm convinced it's the root cause of my anxiety. As an example, let's say I google one question on how to get more traffic to my blog. Within seconds I'm inundated with hundreds of options. I feel like Robin Williams in "Moscow on the Hudson" when he first came upon the cereal aisle of an NYC supermarket. Sure I can pick and choose but how will I know I've got what I need without reading them all (or at least a lot of them)? That doesn't include the links and references from each of those articles to others and let's not get started on Twitter, StumbleUpon or other networking sites. Before I know it my ass has been glued to my chair for hours, my eyesight is blurred, and my brain is fried after reading an encyclopedia's worth on the subject.

My problem is compiled by the fact that I don't have one question about blogging or my business, I have dozens. Multiply a few dozen questions by the available answers on the w.w.w. and you get - see, that's what I feel every morning when I wake up. This age of technological advancement isn't good for neurotic, over-achievers like me. Do you think they're in cahoots with the prescription drug industry?

I know, I know, I can hear you saying "step away from the computer, breathe, girl, breathe." You're suggesting to be less of a perfectionist, to read a book, take a bath, play with my kids, relax. Yeah, yeah, been there done that. Only after my self-imposed electronic exile I come back to my desk which is peppered with post-its alerting me that I've once again forgotten to schedule the painter, fix a broken window treatment, pay the bills, not to mention improve my blog.

When I discovered google reader I thought, "Great, an organized way to get my morning cup of intelligence!" Only it's less like a cup and more like a bottomless vat. I get so excited when I read a blog or an online newspaper that I subscribe not wanting to miss the next installment. Within a day or two I've got 350 emails giving me a shout out every time I walk by. "Hey, where ya going? Read me, read me."

I'm having trouble breathing...

So here I sit, my ass on this g-d forsaken chair, burned out on my business, stressed about blogging, dissing my kids and trying to find peace in this 365/24/7 world of information overload. One reason technology was invented was to save us time. Well I'm spending too much time trying to save time. Stop the tech express - I want to get off!

Monday, April 14, 2008

SNL: MIDDLE AGED SEXY???


If you did not watch SNL this weekend you MUST find the video clip for the "Cougar's Den" sketch! It's not online yet and people are already asking for it, the sketch was that funny.

With an amazing cameo by Cameron Diaz and including host, Ashton Kutcher, this sketch about middled aged "hotties" dating younger men almost made me pee my pants.

Keep an eye out for it but make sure your legs are crossed.

Kristin Wiig's depiction of Jamie Lee Curtis in an Activia commercial is also funny, but not as much.

Friday, April 11, 2008

MEMORY LOSS: FINALLY SOMEONE PUTS MY LIFE INTO WORDS


If it's not written down, don't expect me to remember it.
If it is written down, don't expect me to remember where I wrote it.

This is the story of my adult life. I've mentioned before (at least I think I have) that I used to be an extremely organized person - Type-A and proud of it.

I'm still TYPE-A, but I'm not as good at it. I'd give myself an F.
F = flunk. F = forgetful. F= frustration. Okay. I'll stop.

My ex-business partner knows of what I speak, she's laughing at this right now. We job shared for two years. She came in the first half of the week, I came in the second. There was constant downloading of info between us to keep up to speed. The poor girl was at a severe disadvantage because if I hadn't written a fact down in my notebook there was no getting it out of me, whether it was what was said in a meeting or, even, who attended the meeting.

Years later, people still ask me to recall a writer or a producer I worked with and I pitifully cannot oblige. I could have met this person once or worked on a project with them for months, still no inkling.

I forget people's names, forget to show up at school events, forget important milestones in friend's and family's lives. I'm pathetic.

Until now I've blamed it on my frequent ingestion of mind-altering substances in college (still got A's!) but I like David Brook's explanation better. (I've included excerpts below because unless you subscribe to the NYT you cannot access his opinion article online.)


The Great Forgetting, by David Brooks for the NYT (4/11/08)

...They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it’s going to be the Bad Memory Century. Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate. Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody’s brains, but less of it actually sticks. It’s become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life — to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.

In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Society is now riven between the memory haves and the memory have-nots. On the one side are these colossal Proustian memory bullies who get 1,800 pages of recollection out of a mere cookie-bite. They traipse around broadcasting their conspicuous displays of recall as if quoting Auden were the Hummer of conversational one-upmanship. On the other side are those of us suffering the normal effects of time, living in the hippocampically challenged community that is one step away from leaving the stove on all day...

...There will be new social movements and causes. The supermarket parking lots will be filled with cranky criminal gangs composed of middle-aged shoppers looking for their cars. As it becomes clear that a constant stream of blog posts and e-mails decimates the capacity for recall, people will be confronted with the modern Sophie’s choice — your BlackBerry or your mind.

Neural environmentalists will emerge from the slow foods movement, urging people to accept memory loss as a way to reduce their mental footprint. Meanwhile, mnemonic gurus will emerge offering to sell neural Viagra, but the only old memories the pills really bring back will involve trigonometry...


"hippocampically challenged"...

I like it. I think I'll use it.

I better go write it down.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

IN A PERFECT WORLD SOMETIMES GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH


For four months the writer's strike forced people in my town to cutback and reconsider their financial priorities. Some barely felt the pinch of a comatose economy while others didn't survive it. Those in the middle adapted and survived.

During this time of financial re-evaluation I realized how easy it has become to delegate our parenting responsibilities to others. We live in an era where excellence is the norm, pushing ourselves to reach the same maximum ability as our technological gadgets and passing this goal of excellence onto our children. Their world is faster than ours was at their age and we expect them to achieve earlier and better than we did in order to compete. We give our hard-earned money to professionals to train our kids for the marathon of modern life - private schools, tutors, trainers, therapists. In some situations professional consultation is necessary but many parents, feeling overwhelmed by self-imposed expectations and inadequacy, seek out experts who they believe can handle the demands better than themselves.

I recognize this is most prevalent in big cities like mine but I think it applies on some level to everyone. I know of parents who enroll their kids in private school expecting the school to churn out perfect children with perfect critical thinking skills, perfect SAT scores, and perfect manners - their money buying them perfect visions of themselves. I hear of countless others who place themselves on the brink of financial ruin in order to enroll in these same schools. They cause stress in their marriage and their family not wanting to give their child anything less than the best. Some students thrive in these challenging environments going on to college with an academic knowledge deeper and better than from any public school but many students do not. It's these children that pay the price for our super-charged, supremacy-seeking, education-budget challenged society. The time they spend struggling with an accelerated curriculum meant for a minority of students is time away from self-discovery in alternative forms such as sports, music, reading for pleasure, or just goofing off.

A boiling teakettle lets off steam to release pressure - our children are like little teakettles. We risk them exploding or burning out if we don't let them play during the only time in their lives when they can without guilt or judgment.

We make things worse by sheltering our children from disappointment starting at a young age. We lavish them with praise and accolades. We let them win at cards and board games to protect them from frustration and failure. How does this prepare them for real life? We immunize our kids to build up their resistance to disease, why not the same for disappointment?

I believe in therapy, it is the reason I am happy with who I am today, and before we instituted our family cutbacks, I depended on our therapist for my children's every emotional misdemeanor. I worried about my daughter's shyness and withdrawal and my son's tendency to be explosive. I wrote down every piece of advice our therapist gave us and kept the notes in my night table drawer for frequent study. I heeded her words more than I did my own instinct. Surely, some kids do need professional help but I risk saying that many would do as well or better with genuine parental nurturing and supervision. We're all looking for the easy answer, the explanation, the quick fix, but with time off the perfection treadmill and only my gut to guide me, my family is no worse for wear. We err, we survive.

It takes as much time to drive our kids to the tutor as it does to spend quality time with them. We'd have to educate ourselves on our specific subjects but don't we all read parenting books and research the internet anyway? The trick is to trust ourselves. If we do, we might come to the conclusion that we are more capable of raising our children than we give ourselves credit for. Paraphrasing parenting expert Wendy Mogul, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, we don't need to be perfect, sometimes good is good enough.

I'd go so far as to say sometimes good is better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

IMPERFECT MOM YET AGAIN


"Stay right there."

The words echoed inside my head as I pulled away to grab a parking spot that had just become free.

My son refused to get in the car until we resolved the issue of his proposed play date. I was illegally parked near his school and the aggressive parking enforcement officer was pulling up behind me, dreams of meeting quotas dancing inside her head. There were throngs of familiar faces picking up their children and a crossing guard nearby.

"Stay right there. Don't move," I said. He pranced with anticipation, his green trucker's hat hanging too low on his forehead because it was the only size left at the store. "I'll be right back."

I parked my car about 100 feet away. As my feet touched the street, I looked over to the corner where I'd left him. I saw the crossing guard. I saw crowds of parents with their children. I saw no green trucker's hat.

I came to that spot and stood. Part of me hoping he would magically reappear to the scene of the crime, part of me hoping I could see him before he got too far.

No green hat.

I crossed the street to the school's front steps where the crowd dwindled. I could hear a few parents chatting with their children about lunch, recess, and plans for ice cream. I moved a few steps forward, a few to the right, left, back; forming fractured circles around the school's marquis.

I began to panic. The way a mom panics when she momentarily loses sight of her child in the supermarket. My heart accelerated while my brain instructed me to calm down. "He'll show up," my intellectual voice said. "He always does."

Right. He's fine, I thought. He was here just a minute ago, couldn't have gone too far. I looked around reassuring myself he'd appear any minute. Nothing. I turned on myself. How could I have been so stupid? I should have forced him into the car. Damn it. Shit. Why do I listen to him? Everyone is looking at me. Shit. I know I'm freaking out. I don't know what to do.

I stood in front of the school sign, feet planted, head turning in all directions. My body paralyzed while my heart and brain battled for power. The longer I stood the less I heeded my brain. I could no longer hear it's voice at all. There were so many noises in my head I heard nothing. I was lost. I didn't know what to do next so I repeated my motions; looking at the corner where I'd left him, the crossing guard, the streets surrounding the school. I was impotent.

A good friend pulled up to the curb unaware of my situation, "Hey," she said, "does J want to have a play date with B?"

"No," I answered. "He took off. I can't find him." I paced back and forth from the car to the marquis like a frantic lab rat. "I'm freaking out."

The look on her face changed to concern justifying my fear and making me panic more. She started to pull over when I heard, "Mom!"

I turned. There was my son, green trucker hat hanging low, strutting toward me from down a side street. "Mom," he repeated, "hurry up, you need to talk to K's mom."

To him these last few minutes were the same as any other, mom not being where he wanted her when he wanted her.

"J," I screamed. "Where have you been?" I grabbed his arm and held it tight. "When I say stay right there, I mean it."

"Okay. Sorry. Jeez," he said trying to get his arm back. "I was at K's car over there. Come on, his mom is waiting."

"Wait a minute," I ordered continuing to grip his arm. "Do you understand what I said? If I say stay, that means stay. This is a safety rule. Do you get it?"

J looked around. People were staring. He was embarrassed. I became embarrassed. "I got scared," I softened.

He ended up going to his friend's house for the play date. I carried on with my day picking up my daughter from school. For hours I felt the after-effects of the fright. I had to tell myself to breathe, intentional, full breaths. It was difficult to concentrate on the traffic and on my daughter's recounting of her day. I had less patience for temper tantrums, rebuttals, or conversation of any sort. I needed my focus on me.

The incident worked out fine. But somehow one more near miss awakened me to the fact that one day it might not. I'm sure time will lull me to sleep as it always does but for today I will be as aggressive as that parking enforcement officer and trail his every move.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'M STRESSED AS HELL AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE


Sunday's NYT article, "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop," was just the wake-up call I needed. I've been more productive the last few months than in years yet each night I go to sleep chiding myself for not finishing projects and wondering how I can get more done.

I used to be a highly-organized person. Each day I wrote checklists. When I crossed off a to-do item, a task as small as dropping clothes off at the dry cleaner or as time-consuming as filing six months of household papers, I experienced a rush of accomplishment.

Oddly enough as a working mom, I managed to keep my organization skills strong. Lunch hours were not about eating, they were a luxurious block of time where I ran errands, quickly and alone. A friend of mine once told me she admired how with fifteen minutes of down time I managed to accomplish multiple errands while she spent the same time sitting in her parked car.

As a SAHM, I find this efficiency a challenge. Worse, now that I'm not "working", others who do work, consider my complaints unjustified. I used to get sidetracked by dirty breakfast dishes, a pile of soiled laundry, and phone calls but I've traded these for another time-consuming distraction: blogging. Not the writing part. To spend endless hours writing is my dream. No, it's the blogosphere learning curve: blog administration, marketing, social networking. The blog world is enormous and learning how to navigate it is overwhelming. Additionally, there are so many interesting writers out there on every subject that when I read one I like, I link over to another they recommend, and another, and before I know it hours have passed and I can no longer remember the original article or my motivation for reading it in the first place!

I've been wondering how to better manage my time between my role as a mom, my home business, and my blogging. I tend to take things on with a flourish. I become passionate and consumed with the desire to be an overnight success at whatever I do. Over Christmas I decided I was going to start a business AND a blog. I had no idea how much work each of them would require and, since both of them are computer driven, I find myself chained to my Ibook. I work while the kids are in school - forgetting to drink, eat, walk the dog, and plan dinner. I sneak time logged on while the kids are doing homework. I make a quick pit stop while cooking or cleaning only to realize dinner has burned or it's 10pm and I've forgotten to put the kids to sleep! I spend little to no time with friends, little to no time reading books, and even less time with my husband.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing the blog. It's forced me to share my words in a public forum and connected me to other people with like interests and concerns. But in my hopes of filling my days with new purpose I've added stress and confused my priorities.

The NYT article above was interesting because while I am not a career blogger, and while I'm hopefully not going to drop dead of a stress-related heart attack any time soon, I am suffering from similar time-management difficulties. I answered the wake-up call and researched some tips I hope will be helpful. I provide links below in case you're interested.

Warning: Do not spend hours going from link to link like I did! Defeats the purpose, no?

How do you make the most of your day so you're a satisfied and happy mom? I'd like to know.

Related articles:
Workload is Killing Bloggers
(This link is not working, please go to www.kathrynvercillo.com/blog. Click on right column heading"Workload is Killing Bloggers". It's a good article.)
Work At Home Mom Time Management Tips
Time Management Tips for WAHMs and MOMs

P.S.!!!!! It just took me so long to write this article and get the linky-love right that I'm late to pick up my son and I haven't eaten, walked the dog or anything! So much for time management!


Saturday, April 5, 2008

SHARING THE LOVE: A BLOG REFERRAL


I found an article on DIGG and think this woman's perspective is important for parents to read and consider. Additionally, her blog here is original and funny.

This is the link to her article: http://www.burbia.com/node/1688

Friday, April 4, 2008

CALLING ALL GIRLS: A LITTLE RETAIL THERAPY


I just don't get out that much. Sure, I carpool, run errands, but by getting out, I mean doing things for ME.

Yesterday was difficult: my son whined from the minute I picked him up from school until the minute he went to bed and, in the middle of his whine-fest, I had a fender-bender on the freeway which didn't hurt anyone but cost me thousands of dollars in damage and made me late picking up my daughter from school. I tried slow breathing, a hot bath, exercise, wine but I awoke today with the same short fuse.

It was while running an errand this morning that I came upon OLD NAVY and felt my anxiety calm. Walking in I saw rows upon rows of brightly colored cottons and vibrant patterns beckoning me with promises of summer cuteness. I answered the call and within minutes was in the dressing room. I am not a shopper. I am too impatient. But today was quick, efficient, and easy on my wallet. Who needs a shrink when one's got retail??

They just put out all NEW inventory yesterday and it looks that way. If any of you are in need of a reasonably priced pick-me-up this Friday afternoon, I highly recommend a trip to OLD NAVY (and DON'T take the kids).

It certainly brightened my day. Now I can smile even when dealing with my car insurance company.

(A new post is coming very soon.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

DEPENDING ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS : Post Partum Depression


"Pull off the road!" my mother shouted.

I responded with an animal-like wail. I was in agony. My lactating breasts fought against the attempted strangulation, swelling and throbbing beneath the tight bandage wrap. It was me against mother nature. Me against God's plan. Me against everybody.

I gave birth to my son in June of 2000. Before Marie Osmond came out about suffering from PPD, before Brooke Shields' authored, Down Came the Rain, and before the cause celeb that followed.

My son's first week was out of the baby books. He slept, he ate, he pooped. Nursing was painful as my breasts became accustomed to him latching on but I produced copious amounts of milk and my freezer had stock enough for a gaggle of infant guzzlers. On his eighth day, the day of his bris, something shifted. He became agitated. I became sad and anxious. I reasoned with myself that it was an exhausting day and we both needed some rest. I had no idea of the storm that was brewing.

My son developed colic and didn't stop screaming for five weeks. The pediatrician nicknamed him "the boy with the strong set of lungs" because he didn't merely scream, he roared. I tried everything to ease his discomfort: warm baths, warm compresses, Mylicon, gripe water. I whittled down my diet to avoid spicy, gas-producing foods and within days was eating only boiled chicken and rice. He still screamed. He still writhed in pain. He still had to be held and bounced every minute of every night and day. I developed breast infections and chronically clogged milk ducts. I suffered high fevers, applied ice packs, heat packs, painful self-massage all while continuing to nurse. At one point I asked my pediatrician about switching to formula and her comment was, "Wouldn't it be a shame to stop nursing when so many other mothers want to but can't?" So there I was an exhausted, guilt-ridden, prize-winning cow.

I became an insomniac. I spent nights telling myself I'd make up the sleep during the day. I'd spend days telling myself I'd make up the sleep at night. It was a vicious, anxiety-producing cycle and after weeks of it my brain began to play tricks on me. One afternoon, a friend took my baby for a walk down the street. While in the shower, I heard him scream. I ran out of my room, leaving a trail of water and suds behind, only to find no one home. The loud, piercing, signature screams I'd heard in the shower were not real; they were in my head. Aural impressions embedded in my gray matter. I drove my daughter to pre-school with my head shrouded in a sleep-deprived fog. Passing through intersections I'd turn my head slowly and think, "Was that a stop sign?" My husband and I fought constantly. He did little and what he did do he did wrong. He worked longer hours. I cried and pleaded for him to help me. He felt helpless, out of his league, scared. He used business as an excuse to stay away. When the situation got really bad he left the country.

Tired of slamming up against the wall of ineptitude that was my husband and exhausted from trying to talk my mother's long distance anxieties down, I sought help from others. Friends did their best to help by buying groceries, paying visits, and forcing me out of the house, but their best wasn't good enough. They didn't understand my pain. I didn't understand my pain. I sought out professionals. I love my OB-GYN but he failed me during this time. He dismissed my calls for help when I complained of fire burning in my breasts. I probably didn't push hard enough to be seen, anticipating and creating yet one more rejection. It seemed as if I was shouting but no one was listening. I felt abandoned and alone. I wanted someone to take command, to tell me what to do, to fix me.

I found The Baby Whisperer. A friend of a friend told me she worked miracles with moms and babies so I paid her a visit. I exposed her to to my sore, reddened breasts and my crying boy. She immediately diagnosed me with a breast infection, instructed me in massage techniques and home remedies. She then leaned down to my son who was screaming inside his car seat carrier. She literally whispered to him, talking to him about how she was going to take off the straps, remove him from his seat, pick him up. He quieted down, listened, and stopped crying. Like turning off a switch it was the first time I'd experienced quiet in weeks. The Baby Whisperer was my miracle worker. I gladly wrote a check for that session plus a few follow ups. The moment we got to the car my baby screamed again and my whispering didn't stop him. My breasts did not respond to her techniques or remedies. When I called a few days later to make another appointment her husband told me she was no longer available to help me. His explanations were vague and frustrating. Calls and letters I sent went unanswered. Her book was published shortly thereafter with a huge public relations push including a spot on the TODAY show. Her office closed. My miracle worker abandoned me - just like everyone else.

Depending on the kindness of strangers didn't work for Blanche DuBois and it didn't work for me. The more desperate I got, the more I gave over my power to them.

During my son's six week pediatrician visit, after reviewing my son's "progress", the doctor looked into my eyes and asked how I was doing. She forced me to focus on her despite my son screaming and wriggling in my arms. I responded with a perfunctory "fine" and then broke down and sobbed.

"You're not fine," she said. "I've known you for a while. You're a capable mother. This is not you. You are not fine." She gave me the name of a psychiatrist in the neighborhood and urged me to see her right away.

Despite the lesson of The Baby Whisperer, I didn't hesitate seeking out the kindness of another stranger. What alternative did I have? In the doctor's waiting room I filled out forms with questions like:

  • Do you have a decreased appetite?
  • Are you often agitated and irritable?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Are you often sad or tearful?
  • Are you withdrawn and isolated from family and friends?
  • Do you have negative thoughts about your baby?
  • Do you have thoughts of suicide?
I checked all the boxes "yes" except for the last two and for the first time it dawned on me that I might be part of something bigger than myself. PPD was not part of the cultural zeitgeist back then. It never occurred to me. The doctor confirmed it and recommended medicine. We discussed my concerns: the side-effects, how long before they would work, how long I'd have to take them, the stigma. Ultimately, I decided to try them and after researching the effects of medication and nursing I chose to stop nursing cold turkey.

So I visited yet another stranger, a lactation specialist. Who, as kind as she was, proceeded to strap my tender, swollen bosoms into a wrap so tight that I discovered what it meant to see stars.

"24 hours," she told me. "Keep it on for 24 hours. Do NOT take it off or loosen it or you'll have to start all over again."


"Pull off the road!" my mother shouted. "You shouldn't be driving! Where is (my husband)?"

I answered with an animal-like wail, "He's in Montreal."

My mother ordered me to get home safely and hung up to call my husband. Barely able to see through my tears to the road in front of me, I heaved and sobbed all the way home praying I wouldn't black out.

The next day, my husband returned home and after a full day on formula my son stopped crying.

Just like that.

He was a different baby. A happy baby. It was my milk after all. Something I knew in my gut but refused to heed because of pressure. In this day and age with numerous studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding how could I consider not?

After a few weeks of trial and error, my doctor and I found the medicine that worked best for me and I returned to the world of the functioning. I slept, I ate and, best of all, I enjoyed time with my baby.

There are times in one's life where it is necessary to depend on the kindness of strangers. But in this particular case I felt like Dorothy on her journey in The Wizard of Oz - I had the power to go home all along.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

WHOOPS THERE IT IS

Here I sit staring at my computer rather than between my sheets watching television because while bathing I brainstormed a concept for a post.

And by the time I got here...

I forgot it!

No shit. Really. The whole idea just up and left my brain.
Jeez.

This used to happen to me all the time in business meetings. I'd be called upon or eagerly offer up an opinion or fact and I'd drop my voice in mid-sentence because my brain was unable to remember what came next. It felt like a curtain descending unexpectedly in the middle of a play. Needless to say it was embarrassing. The fog descended often enough that at one meeting a fellow executive publicly handed me a package of Ginkgo-Biloba. Not one of my finest executive moments.

Is it age? Did I smoke too much weed in college and into my 20's?

Okay, it's come back to me. I wanted to post about my daughter and our current battle of wills. She is a picky eater, always has been. Now, in her pre-pubescent form she is refusing to eat anything except her favorite meals. Trouble is her favorite meals, carmelized apple crepes and homemade chicken soup to name a few, require marketing and time consuming preparation. These are actions I'd rather not make time for right now because, OMG, I'm really going to say this, yes, a mom is really going to come out and publicly state that, "I'D RATHER BE DOING THINGS FOR MYSELF LIKE WRITING THAN PREPARING DELICIOUS, HEALTHY MEALS FOR MY CHILDREN TO EAT!!"

I don't know maybe it's all the meals I did spend hours preparing that nobody ate! Maybe it's all the "ewww" and "gross" comments and the default yogurts they ate instead.

I'm slightly ashamed to say that my daughter has not eaten well lately because we are both stubborn creatures and we are fighting our respective fights to the death. She refuses to eat anything that comes from the freezer. I refuse to dirty up numerous pots, pans and dishes to cater to her sophisticated and particular palate. I'm sick of starting dinner at 4:30 and leaving the kitchen at 8:30 only to put the kids to bed and become free at 9:30! Because then, like right now, I'm sitting at the computer at 10pm instead of watching "The New Adventures of Old Christine" on TIVO!

I didn't end up delving into the food battles with my pre-teen daughter to the depths I dreamed up in the bathtub. Maybe I'll come up with some more ideas for the post tomorrow night while luxuriating in my 3 minute soak. This time I'll take my laptop in with me.


PROZAC: TAKE ME AWAY!!!!



Last week I had it together. I managed to find time to work out, write, do some business and spend time with the kids. I even went with a friend to my very first Torah study class.

It was a good week.

This week...not so much.

I spent ALL of my free hours yesterday with a friend (thank you, Elisa) working on administration of THIS blog. It's like sinking all your money into the plumbing or the roof of your house - nobody notices it but you. To make matters worse, after all that time, we were able to complete some of the tasks but two of the most important ones remain unresolved.

Aaaargh!!!

Then to add salt to my already burning wounds, I read a glowing article in a well-known metropolitan newspaper about a high school friend who has turned a previously fledgling division of a huge corporation into a profitable company. She now heads up additional divisions of said corporation AND is the mother of three kids.

Aaaargh!!!

Okay, I'm thrilled for her. She was very nice. She was very smart and destined to do big things. But coming from the same origins, being her friend, I feel as if I've come up short.

Before reading about my friend I was satisfied. I had my little business, my little blog, my family. But reading that article raised something buried deep within me - hunger. Now my little business, my little blog - seem, well, little. I don't regret having left the corporate world (it was NOT for me). I don't regret being the primary caretaker for my kids. So, what's my problem?

I regret not working harder to achieve my dream.

That was a difficult sentence for me to get out.

Reading about my friend's success forced me to look at my life, my age. How I've spent all these years in comparison. It's a bitter pill. Although I love my life, I have not achieved success in writing, personally or professionally, and I have no one to blame but myself.

My little blog is a start. I created it to force myself to put my words out there for others to see. I can't help but wonder where I would be if I put all my fears of mediocrity aside and got down to the serious business of dream-making.

Scary.

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