"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday ..... what would it be like to not worry about money?

Let's be honest .... a million dollars doesn't mean much anymore. Really, how long could you live a moderately stable life with a million dollars, after you pay off the house, purchase a car, and maybe take the trip you have always wanted to take you may have a year or two without having to find a job. Granted - once you found that job you wouldn't have a mortgage which would be nice.
So why the blog about cash - I am not poor, the bills get paid, my kids get fed, we have some extras and while I will probably never be able to travel the world and get to all the places on my "places I want to visit" Pinterest Board I am ok ... and then ....
This morning I saw a news article about a theft at Joel Osteen's church. The church raised $600,000.00 in one weekend! I am not even going to get into a conversation about Joel Osteen and his "church" but I will ask, what does the "church" need with $600,000.00 a weekend (that amount does not include the credit card numbers that were placed in the collection dish!)? Isn't there a vow of poverty? Looking at Mr. Osteen's suit, religion has paid him well. I am pretty sure God did not envision a mega-church as the place people go to for lessons on living a virtuous life. But apparently 40,000 people a weekend disagree with me.
But the idea for this blog occurred prior to my hearing about the plight of the Osteen "church."
I am having a midlife crisis. I decided last year that I would go back to graduate school. It isn't that I hate my job - but I hate my commute. I figured if I was going to change careers I would change it to something that I have always wanted to do. So I am attempting to get first my Master's in mental health counseling, and then my license so I can be an actual counselor. I should have done this while I was young! Just sayin'
Part of my program is that I need to complete a 15 hour a week internship for the MSMHC and then a 30 hour a week internship for the CAGS program to get my license. The majority of the people in my program are in their 20s, most not working and living with mom & dad, so adding an unpaid internship into their lives is not much of a problem. But being a 40 something mom w/a mortgage makes this process a bit more complicated. And a bit more stressful!
I have a rather long commute to work everyday and it gives me a lot of time to think. I have concluded that in order to accomplish my goal I either need to add an eighth day in the week - or win $250,000.00 so that I can quit my job until I finish my program. Looking at in black & white that is a huge number! I find myself dreaming about it, stressing out about it, playing the lottery on the weekend praying for it. As much as I hate to admit it that number has taken over my life (and not in a good way). It is the thing keeping me from accomplishing a simple goal .... I am not greedy, I don't want a big house, or a fancy car, and I can even live without traveling the world. All I want is to finish the degree I should have finished years ago and have a shorter commute so I can spend some more time at home. A friend of mine at work suggested that I find 100 friends who are willing to donate $2,500 to the cause - when I said that was an awesome idea and when could I expect her check she just giggled (I guess you can tell how well that is going to work).
So, the realization that a "church" in which the "pastor" wears thousand dollar suits got $600 thousand in donations in one weekend was a little bit disheartening.
So in reality this blog was all about venting ... I will find an internship that work with my schedule .... I will complete my graduate degree .... I will find a job without a crazy commute ... it just won't be easy (nothing worthwhile ever is according to both my Yia-Yia and my Nana). The insurance companies will take care of the "mega-church" and Mr. Osteen will continue preachin' and the world will continue to turn.
But if I had a millions dollars .......

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday .... without pictures

There is a Facebook "thing" that people do called Throwback Thursday in which people post pictures of themselves back in the day. On my way to work this morning I had my music on shuffle and it just so happens that each and every song brought me back to a moment in time back in the day. It is amazing to me that a song can bring you back to a moment in time so vividly you remember the place, the people, the smell, the feelings. So I thought today as I sit and wait for my class to start I would share with you some of those songs and maybe share a story or two.

This song reminds me of the Roller Palace. As a teenager we would go roller skating every weekend like it was a religion: Friday Night 7-10, sometime on Saturday and Sunday 1-7. So many of the friends I still have I met there. The smell was a combination of Aquanet hairspray, sweat and cheap cardboard pizza. They made this drink we called a "suicide" which consisted of all the fountain drinks they had (Pepsi, Rootbeer, Sprint, Orange & Mountain Dew) in one glass.

The best thing about the Roller Palace is I go there now with my kids. The rug is the same, the tables are the same, the decor is the same and they even serve the same pizza and suicides.

Van Halen - really is there anything more to say! This particular song brings me right back to the 7th grade and dances that used to be held in the basement of a church. It was always hot and the fruit punch was always more like water with red food coloring. I remember it was so dark (which of course was what middle school kids wanted most in a dance - perhaps the chance to steal a kiss or two in the corner). But I don't remember much of that going on in 7th grade. What I remember most were groups of giggling girls and groups of boys all standing around the dance floor for the first hour or so of the dance. And then some dancing, and then the waiting. Hoping that the boy you liked would ask you to dance the last dance. Eventually the boy I wanted to ask me did. I would say it was a disappointing first boyfriend, but what did I really know at 12. But I remember this song playing in my friends house as group of girls fought for the mirror, the hairdryer, the curling iron and the hairspray. They were good, good times.

For today I will leave you with this little ditty:

Who could forget The Breakfast Club - the defining move of John Hughes and of my generation.

Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think your crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain .... and an athlete .... and a basket case .... a princess .... and a criminal. Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club

I had to BEG to see this movie at the movie theatre. We had two main movie theatres near my house at the time. One had about 10 screens and that was the big theatre. Then there was one that only had three screens and that was where I saw the Breakfast Club - all 5 times (it is a Barnes & Noble now). Going to the movies was still a pretty big deal when I was 14. It was like walking into another world when the lights went down and the movie came on - no IMax, no 3D, no super loud surround sound that causes hearing loss - just a story and a movie. We all identified with the Breakfast Club in one way or another. Most of us can still recite it for you if you would really like us to.

While the 1980s were a little loud and weird it seems so innocent compared to what teenagers have to worry about now. I am sure every generation thinks this way, but in the wake of school shootings, designer drugs, and killer STDs it really does seem like for all the craziness the 80s generation was the last generation of calm.

What is your favorite song that throws you back?


Friday, December 6, 2013

I can breathe .... well maybe after a conversation about sexism in advertising

The semester is finally over and I can almost take a breath. I have 35 final exams to grade and one take-home final to complete and the semester is over for me! I am stunned that I have completed a semester of graduate school - it is such a blur I can't even confirm that I remember enough of what I learned to say I have been successful. But I can say that once the papers were handed in and the exams were graded I did not embarrass myself (this was very important to me since my professors are also my colleagues).

So, the time has come to step back and begin observing my crazy world again and spend some time with my blog. As I began thinking of things I wanted to write about I remembered a recent comment by Sarah Palin that particularly annoyed me .... "I love the commercialization of Christmas because it spreads the Christmas cheer the most jolly holiday on our calendar ... obviously." I can't make this stuff up people! See for yourself ..... and giggle with John Stewart as you do.

I was going to go on a rant about what Christmas means to me ... how the commercials I am seeing every day make me feel sad and angry and kill my Christmas spirit and I realized ... been there, done that:

With no desire to be repetitive I started looking for something else that could start dialogue. Lo and behold in my Facebook newsfeed I found this gem:

It is great that someone is out there saying these things. The objectification of women to sell products is a time-honored tradition that really needs to end. When I heard her say she had been talking about this for 40 years I decided to do a search and go back to see if we have made any progress. I am sorry to say that I don't think we have.


It is a vicious cycle .... young girls see these advertisements and think this is the way women should be treated .... in turn media makes more risqué advertisements ..... more young women see them and so on and so on. It is not surprising that each semester the girls I have in class are wearing fewer and fewer clothes. It is no wonder that eating disorders are skyrocketing, and depression and anxiety is increasing year after year among young women.
I wish I had the answer on how to end the cycle, how to make men see women as more than a bunch of body parts, how to make women see themselves as more than a bunch of body parts at the beck and call of the men in their lives. I put some of the blame on the magazines sold to women as essential guidebooks on how to be feminine and beautiful: Cosmo - Vanity Fair - Vogue .....
And don't even get me started on Teen Vogue  or Seventeen ....
I remember reading these 30 years ago and feeling like I couldn't compete and that was before photoshop! I could never afford the clothes or do the make-up quite right and I never had the cute fabulous boyfriends they said I would have if I made myself up to look like a clown.
But in my search for what is wrong with media and it's portrayal of women and it's brainwashing of young girls I found this, a bright light in the midst of all of this: Julia Bluhm, Seventeen Reader, Petitions Magazine To Feature Non-Airbrushed Photos;  Teen Vogue Next In Anti-Photoshop Battle Waged By SPARK Summit Teens. There is hope. 
So in the end maybe we can begin to reverse a trend hundreds of years old.
  • If we can teach our sons to appreciate women for more than their bodies.
  • If we can teach our daughters that they should treat themselves with respect so that others will treat them with respect.
  • If we can get women to stop buying magazines that are ultimately going to make them feel bad about themselves.
  • If don't purchase products that advertise in sexist ways or buy magazines that publish these advertisements.
Then maybe - just maybe change will happen.
So much for a blog that started as a celebration of being able to breathe at the end of a long semester. Maybe breathing just isn't my style.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Family Friday ..... Mom Guilt

I completely understand that what I am about to write about is a 1st world problem. It is more than that, it is a 1st world middle class problem in a lot of ways. You see, I have choices in my life that other mommy's don't. My parenting choices are made by carefully balancing my needs and wants with the needs and wants of my children, while I also balance the reality that there is a mortgage to pay and food to purchase. There is a lot of balancing, but there are choices.

As I do most of the time I come up with a blog idea - usually based on something that I have observed in my own life, or a topic I am interested in -  I do some research. What are other people saying about this topic, is there something more I should know before I write my thoughts down, has someone said it better. More often than not something I read changes my perspective and makes me look at my idea in a completely new way. This is of course called learning and it is one of my favorite hobbies.

So, as I was about to lament about the time I have been spending away from home recently for work and for classes I came across more articles than I thought I would on Mommy Guilt.

First and foremost I had no idea there was an entire book about Mommy Guilt. I guess I should find solace that there are enough people in the world who have mommy guilt that they wrote a book about it. Perhaps when I have a moment to breathe I may even read it (of course by the time I have a moment to breathe I will be having grandmommy guilt).

Then I found the Working Moms Against Guilt blog. Which I perused for awhile. There were some good helpful hints and some funny posts, but I just wasn't feeling the connection. And then I found this post and I connected (I especially like the woman who would like to leave it all behind so she can hang out on a farm with her kids and raise chickens; and the woman with the list of 9 worries that can flit through her mind in a minute) and I grinned. I see it on the playground on those rare occasions I get the chance to pick up my son from school. We check each other out and you can almost see it in our eyes .... why can't I be as put together as she is or why isn't my kid as well behaved as hers, what would I have to add to their conversation?

I should say this now. When I raised the first child on my own I was working just hard as I am working now. I had the support of my parents but I was doing it on my own - working full time during the week, working part time weekends, and going to graduate school. And I don't remember having this much guilt. Maybe it is because he is on his own now trying to find his own way and I don't see him nearly as much as I would like to that this time around I have the feeling that I need to do it differently, that I need to do it better. Who knows. I am in graduate school again (because I have no idea what it is I want to be when I grow up) and I am taking a class on Life Span Development. We were talking in class about the "good enough" parent. That really we are going overboard with the idea of perfect parenting and that sometime it is ok to just be good enough. But I digress as I usually do.

So I continued my quest on information about Mommy Guilt and I found this blog entry: Jesus Canceled Your Mommy Guilt Trip. And I remembered my blog last Friday about being a "proud failure" and I thought, maybe this is what I am missing. Again, I admire people who have this kind of faith and I am not entirely sure that a little more faith in my life wouldn't be a bad thing. But I don't know if I can look at my day and not have pride in my child if it was a good day - or be angry with myself if it was a bad day. I just think trying to live my life in this way would make me more guilty because I would just fail miserably at it. And so I moved on.

I came across two articles in Parenting Magazine that caught my attention - one was Kissing Mommy Guilt Goodbye, which basically said we know you feel this way, cut yourself some slack, get over it and move on (great .... inability to move on, one more thing to feel guilty about .... check). But the other one I found more interesting - Mom's Dirty Secret. It talked about the things that mom's don't admit - sometimes we like one kid better than the other, or we aren't really happy with the person our teenager became, or my favorite, parenting older children is actually harder than parenting toddlers. I didn't see any of these really as secrets. Moms I know talk about stuff like this all the time. In the end we always end with the reality that we really do love our kids even if we don't like them all the time and really that is all that matters. And so I moved on.

I went to the Huffington Post - and I was amazed at the search results I got: 1 1/2  pages of links to stories about mommy guilt, and I started reading. This one caught my attention, Why do you have to work mama? I was really with her - wondering how do you explain to your child that work is more than just a pay check; that it is rewarding and fulfilling, without making him feel that you would rather be at work than with him .... until she started talking about the perks of her job that included free airline miles and points that got her family free vacations. That just made me angry because those free points and miles are one of the reasons airline tickets are so expensive and I can't go on family vacations and so I moved on. But post after post that I read were from really high-powered career women talking about problems that I just didn't understand, nannies and traveling and breast feeding in public. I would start reading and think ... ok, yup I am with you and then it would all fall apart because their mommy worlds are so far from mine. And so I moved on.
I went back to Google and started from scratch and that is when I came across this short piece that brought it all back into perspective for me: The Real Mommy Wars. And this led to my first paragraph and the reality that mommy guilt is a 1st world, middle class problem. I work because I have to, I am back in graduate school to fulfill my sense of self-worth, my career grants me opportunities that lower socio-economic moms don't have. It may not be free airline miles or nannies, but it is a flexible schedule when I need it, healthcare and a home.
So what brought me to this quest to overcome mommy guilt? Looking back it is silly really .... it was a field trip to go apple picking. When I sent in the permission slip for my son to go on the trip, I checked my calendar and had the day free from meetings and work responsibilities, so I happily checked the box that said I would chaperone. I thought notices were being sent home to confirm who was picked to chaperone and I had not gotten one. So I went about my business, scheduled several meetings for that morning and went about my week. When the day of the field trip came my son informed me that he forgot to tell me that I was chaperoning. I went into immediate panic. Why hadn't I confirmed whether or not I was chaperoning myself? Could I reschedule my meetings? And if I couldn't what irreparable harm was I doing to his psyche? So I logged into my e-mail, rescheduled what I could, cancelled what I couldn't and showed up at the apple orchard. It began as a great trip and he seemed genuinely happy to see me there. Until he stopped listening. Which of course frustrated me because I had scrambled to get on this trip, the least he could do is not require me to repeat the same thing over and over while he completely ignored my plea for him to behave. I knew he was excited and I didn't cut him any slack - which in retrospect had more to do with me than him (he really wasn't behaving that badly, just not listening). So the day ended with him sitting on a bench, not playing with his friends because he was angry with me. So instead of hugs and kisses when he was heading back to the bus I got "I wish you didn't chaperone." Ouch .... knife right to the heart and tears all the way to work.
He of course got over this more quickly than I did. This morning I got hugs and kisses because I sold enough candles for him to get the prize he wanted from the PTO fundraiser. And on Friday nights he gets to pick where he falls asleep; tonight he wanted to fall asleep in my room watching his favorite show Too Cute - and tonight I got hugs and kisses. I don't think I completed my quest to define, alleviate or conquer mommy guilt. I don't know if any women in our culture can. But we do the best we can with what we have and realize tomorrow is another day. A day in which the whole family is apple picking and there will be apple donuts, apple cider and laughter for all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Being a proud failure on a Friday night .....

To say that lupus has reared its ugly head is an understatement. I went to the doctor today with what I knew was an attack of Pleurisy (which is very common in lupus patients). It started last weekend and I was convinced I had pulled a muscle and it would go away in a couple of days .... but it didn't. Now this is entirely my own fault. Since the semester started I have been going into work super early (7:00 am) twice a week to teach, then working my 35 hours, then one night a week I don't get home until about 10:00 pm because I am taking a couple of classes. Throw in a couple of work events, some Parent Teacher Organization meetings, soccer, homework, grading paper ... plus not eating right and you have a recipe for a lupus flare.

Now before you get all "I'm so sorry to hear it" I do not see this as a bad thing. It is my body's way of saying "Leann, what are you thinking?" And so for the weekend I have a Doctor's note which requires me to take it easy, and I will. The only thing that aggravates me is that I was really looking forward to the Boston Ballet perform on the Boston Common this weekend and I may not get to do that (my husband, the sweetheart that he is was going to go with me - but I think he would rather be bringing me avgolemo soup on the couch). Lupus is what it is. There is a great blog I follow called Despite Lupus. It is great for a couple of reasons - she reminds me I need to take care of myself & she reminds me how ok I am because her lupus impacts her life more than my lupus impacts mine.

So I have spent most of today sitting on what the boy calls the "love couch" and I should be grading papers or reading for class or something productive. But I have taken my Tramadol for the pain and my brain is a little too fuzzy to accomplish that at the moment. But I am pretty proud of myself. I have managed to do my nails ... nothing fancy just a little sparkly and purple (my signature color).

And this is the second blog I have written today (because I have to do something). I got watch a bunch of Walking Dead to get caught up for the new season and I plan on some NCIS episodes this evening. So while I am bored out of my skull I am proud of the fact that I have managed to go to the doctor and accomplish some stuff and I have managed to still be awake. Overall good day.

So the failure part. I have been surfing Pinterest and I have been searching for some new blogs to follow. And I have realized a couple of things:
Pinterest is designed to make average moms feel inadequate. Let's be honest - not a lot of men follow Pinterest. And what you find are things like:
  • How to make your sidewalk chalk
    Pinterest nails - so much better than mine!
  • How to make your own dishwasher pellets
  • How to make your own pumpkin scented paint for your kids
  • The endless ideas for Elf on a Shelf!
  • How to make furniture out of found pallet wood
  • How to make your own SportCream
  • How to make your own natural house cleaners
  • And don't even get me started on doing your nails!
It makes moms who don't have time to do all these things feel like failures - and add a chronic illness like lupus to the mix and I feel like spending my day sitting on my couch will completely destroy any chance my son has to grow up a well adjusted human being. Because let's face it - I am more likely to go to the dollar store if we need sidewalk chalk.
Then there was the searching of Blogger. I find the same thing in the blogs I am flipping through. Many of them written by stay at home, very religious moms. Now before I get a bunch of flack I have nothing against stay at home religious moms. Their blogs just make me feel like there is a utopian standard of parenting that I am just not living up to. And I have to wonder what is behind the blog. No family can be as perfect as some of these women claim their families are. In my sick twisted brain I am wondering what secrets hide in their closets and if I follow these blogs will I begin to see the cracks in the façade show.
Friends who know me and read this are apt to think I am crazy - when I have the energy I try and craft with my son and have him in the kitchen and go on nature walk adventures. More often then not however, I get a bunch of stuff to do crafts and it ends up sitting in my craft closet "until next time." I also like to have big, crazy parties - but what people don't know is that I spend the week before and the week after on the couch!
So now that it is Saturday morning and I have spent my time "resting" I have to get up and get ready for my day. It is birthday party day. No, I did not make a gift or a cute gift basket - I got my son's friend a Hallmark card and a gift card to the toy store. By the time I get home I am pretty sure I will be too tired to go to the ballet - but may be able to finagle some Halloween crafts before I get my butt back on the couch. In between I may manage to read a chapter or grade a paper. And in all likelihood it will be a pizza dinner - not with homemade sauce and dough, but delivered from Dominos, followed by some cuddling on the couch and a story before bedtime. This is our world, and really that is just fine by me!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Family Friday .... Let's Talk Halloween

It is once again my favorite time of year .... crisp air, apple donuts, county fairs, no AC needed and still no snow! It is the perfect intersection of all my favorite things! But my favorite thing about this time of year is Halloween. I realized that I have written blogs about Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but not really about my favorite holiday of the year!

There are several things about Halloween that disturb me:
  • It is the doorway to winter, once we pass Halloween it is all downhill from there.
  • The commercialism - while I have to admit I am guilty of supporting the purchase of costumes, decorations and goodies it has come to the point of ridiculousness when a bag of 100 pieces of candy costs $9.00.
But let's put those annoying things aside for a moment. Last year we had a Halloween party for a handful of 6 year-olds. It was unfortunate that we planned our party for the same day that hurricane Sandy hit our shores. But the kids had a great time in the mist (it actually made it a little spooky which would have been great had it not been so cold).
Here are some pics from the big event:
These are the "body part toss" game. My husband made the coffin out of pallet wood and we purchased the body parts at the dollar store. We hung a scary face guy in the coffin and the kids tossed the hands and feet at it and then they came out of the bottom.
This is the "Frankenstein Toss" Don't ask me how mu husband made Frankenstein because I have no idea. But we made Jell-O brains and Jell-O eyeballs for the kids to toss in Frankenstein's head. The morning after Hurricane Sandy he fell over and all his brains fell out!
These are the kids searching through the coffin of guts (colored spaghetti & noodles) so they could find the key to the box that holds the goodie bags (and yes, my husband made these as well).
This is one of the Frankenstein Jell-O brains that got stuck in a spider web! LOL!
This is a cemetery made out of what usually is our garden.
And then the food:
And our puppy Bumblebee - who we dressed up as a Bumblebee (she was not pleased)!
So what can we do this year - I may have mentioned once or twice (or three times) that I am a Pinterest junkie. I have an entire folder of Halloween crafts and food and cool things to celebrate the dead and the harvest and the beginning winter. I have already purchased costumes for myself and the now 7 year old!

This is my costume

This is the 7-year-olds costume

So it is beginning to look like a really good Halloween. I have picked out the links from Pinterest below as definite things to do. I am really hoping that the weather holds out and we can have another party in our yard.

Meat Hand
Halloween Graves

I know I am usually all about making vaguely profound observations of the world in which we live. My observation for today has to be that sometimes you just need to have some fun. Halloween makes me feel like a little kid again, especially when I go through the candy bag and pick out my favorites (don't judge .. you know you do it too!). Perhaps remembering our dead with carved pumpkins, and blue ninjas, and gory meatloaf was not exactly what the Celts had in mind 2000 years ago - but what would life be without this crazy celebration. Boring I think!