Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh, how times have changed

My daughter joined the Girl Scouts this year. Daisy Scouts, actually. I didn't know there was such a thing until we went to the first meeting.

I was a Brownie for years; I loved selling the cookies. I'd walk down the streets of my neighborhood and knock on doors, wondering what kind of dog was attached to each bark. Now, the girls and parents get strongly-worded documents against door-to-door sales.

Just one more way the world has changed. And not for the better.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Friend

It's been three and a half years since you died of cervical cancer. I was still nursing my son. I remember crying as I fed him. Crying as I told my boss. Every time I touch something you gave me or see pictures, I feel the ache that you aren't here too.

It had been two years since we'd spoken when you died. Too long. You know how that happens. You always think there will be more time.

We had fun. Remember high school? We called you Queen of the Band Hall? I still have the notes we passed. I read them and laugh. And then I cry. Because they're the last notes we'll ever share.

I love you. I remember the night your sister died. It was the worst thing I ever thought could happen. Until you got cancer.

I wish I'd been there for you more. Your family says it was a relief when the end came, because the pain was too great. And I hate that. But I think about you. I hope there is a part of you I can pass on to my children.

I look at my own kids, and I think, not them. No way. But your parents had three, lost two. How could that happen? I don't know. But it haunts me. And I'm not the only one.

We love you. We remember.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yay for you!

One of my old college friends has a 2 year old, and they have a charming ritual. Every week they make a birthday cake. It's a different type of cake each week, but it's the event that counts. He's celebrating special time with his mommy. She's celebrating the miracle that is her son.

Seems we don't do enough to celebrate ourselves and our families. Special occasions are nice, but these special routines we develop to nurture our families and ourselves demonstrate a love that goes beyond a moment--it's a love you work at and build on everyday.

What rituals do you use to celebrate your family, yourself, and others?

Un-united States of America

For the past ten years, I've been waiting for politicians and political pundits to stop acting like three-year-old protecting a toy in the sandbox.

It hasn't happened.

Yes, I know we're not supposed to talk about politics. Nor are we supposed to talk about religion, but I'm noticing we're talking about both - slyly, for our own agendas - quite a bit.

I've been studying the history of Santa Fe, NM. The Spanish - for all their faults (which were many!) - were able to intermarry and coexist relatively peacefully with the natives, Africans and other groups that were either already in the territory or came to it. That is part of our legacy as Americans. Unfortunately, I still do not see this as the mainstream course of action. People seem to like to fight. Often and loudly.

What happened to respect thy neighbor? What happened to offering someone the dignity of listening to their opinion without talking over them? While I may like my ideas better, they are mine, not yours. And it's relatively rare that I will be able to change anyone's views, whether it be on something as trivial as cereal brands or as major as the environmental legislation that has stalled in D.C. That's OK as long as we can recognize a common goal: leaving our country better.

I am quickly moving from frustration to fear. Our country is polarizing on two opposite ends of the political spectrum; each feels its camp has all the right answers. This is the exact fiasco Abraham Lincoln warned against: "Nearly all men can withstand adversity; If you want to test a man's character, give him power."

But perhaps the most apropos quote is the one by Gore Vidal: "Politics is made up of two words. 'Poli' which is Greek for 'many,' and 'tics,' which are bloodsucking insects."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gloating: A one way ticket down

Oh, the political kibitzing has reached new heights today over the vote that occurred in Massachusetts yesterday. Shortly thereafter, the gloating began. Then the speculation. What did the vote mean?

I don't really need a talking head to tell me, thank you very much. Because there are certain things we're all capable of deciding for ourselves. Maybe you think people voted for Brown because it was a referendum on Obama. Maybe someone else thinks it's because Coakley ran an awful campaign.

You decide.

But don't let the TV tell you.

I hear a lot of gloating today, but it's really a tempest in a teapot. One state, one seat, one vote. We all remember Kennedy as a cultural and political icon, and personally, I don't think he would have approved of either candidate. So the results really don't matter that much, do they?

The problem is, when either party gloats--in defeat or victory--there's payback coming. Because gloating is the first step in complacency. And who wants a complacent government?

One final thought: I have many friends of different political persuasions. I may disagree on issues or candidates, but I most of all want to respect them as people who have reasons behind their beliefs. And ultimately, gloating is a slap in the face to them--and to their core believes. So I'm going to practice a little restraint and respect today and try to respect the people I know--and those I don't as well.

My feminst manifesto

I have a super woman complex. No, I mean I really tend to pressure myself to be better than anyone else. When I finally sat down to unravel the root cause of this issue, I realized that it was all my mom's (generation who were at) fault.

I am a woman of the post-feminism movement. That means I have the right to do as I damn well please. But that doesn't mean I can do anything I please without complaints, sidelong glances and suggestions on what it means to be a woman in today's society. You know what? I think there are a multitude of activities and dreams that I have the right to pursue. So do you. Here's a brief list of what I can do. I'd love to see you add to it.

As a woman, I can:

* run a business as well as any man - and make more money doing so
* stay at home to raise my kids (and maybe never again use that expensive college degree) while being a supportive wife
* wait for someone to open my car door only if I feel like it
* fix a broken electrical socket or transmission
* take a night off and let my spouse deal with the kids
* be frustrated and grumpy without it being labeled PMS
* dress as professionally, sloppy or as sexy as I want
* dream of simpler times when I didn't have to make as many financial decisions
* re-balance my stock portfolio
* buy my own car
* refuse to mow the lawn, enter the attic or deal with dead animals
* squash my own bugs
* expect to be loved and respected and never degraded for wanting to do what is best for my family and myself

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That fine line

Portia mentioned recently that we as women take on too much. I definitely have this problem. It's the "should" curse. More than likely you live it without even realizing it.

Here's a list of items I feel I should do every day (though not in any specific order):

Write an article
If I'm not writing one, I should be researching and pitching one
Spend hours of quality time with my children
Actively learning something new
Wash, dry, fold and put away all the laundry in the hampers
Clean the dishes
Help my children learn to clean up their messes (and then following up to ensure said mess is actually cleaned up)
Spend quality time with my husband
Walk the dog - at least two miles
Spend at least 20 minutes building my platform through social media
Visit with my friends
Make a healthy, nutritious dinner

This is a partial list, but you get the idea. How can one do so many things? I can't. If I try, I do many of them poorly. Which is why my gift to myself is to stop saying, "I should do...." Maybe I should, but I can't do it all. It's time to accept that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mom didn't tell me ...

... That I would cry when my babies stopped nursing.

... That it hurts when you put their baby clothes away.

... That you can take an absurd number of baby photos and video and it will still never be enough.

... That every day they're going to look older—and cuter!

... That you can celebrate poop in the potty with more enthusiasm than any award you'll ever receive.

What's a frenemy?

It's a hard world out there, and we need all the friends we can get, right?


But ... What if someone isn't your friend?

Here's a quick test to decide:

Your friend:

Likes spending time with you—and seeks you out

Makes you feel better about yourself

Offers support and congratulations when good things swing your way

Do you know anyone who failed this test? Is this someone you have regular contact with through work, social activities, or even social media like Facebook or Twitter?

Fire them. Or if you can't excise the cancer (hey, I understand--it's your sister and she's super competitive), at least tune it out.

If you want a positive life, you have to be a positive force. That means being a good friend or neighbor, opening yourself to good people and blocking the bad, and generally supporting others with love in your heart.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Early to bed, early to rise

I love that phrase, and I like the concept. But I don't live it. I wish I did. On mornings where I'm up first (like today, when my morning started at 4:45 a.m.), I use the time to write. But this only works if you also go to bed early. Otherwise, you're just asking to fall victim to post-lunch slump.

Here's my concern. I think women take on too much. If you're like me, you're often the last to bed, perhaps the first to rise, and the self-care you need just isn't happening. When I hear the to-do lists of my friends and colleagues, I realized we're all part of a not-so-exclusive club: an over-committed, over-worked, and under-paid sisterhood. Is this true for you? Check out the poll at the top right-hand corner of the page and let us know if you're in the club too.

Friday, January 8, 2010

But where do you live?

Ever been to someone's immaculately groomed house? I'm always envious at first. No whatnots or geegaws. No magazine stack or letter piles. No dishes in the sink, no coffee cups on the table or toys on the floor.

After the first bout of admiration fades, I begin to notice other things. No books on the end table. The fluffy towels are for guests (read: don't touch) and the pillow arrangement on the bed is so intimidating I don't feel comfortable resting there.

And I wonder, where do these people live? Do they drink and eat, read and sleep? Or is every action a chore, because the house must be meticulously maintained at all times?

Where do they live?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

For Naught

Time magazine proclaimed the decade from hell is over. I'm always leery of such claims. When someone says, "Whew! Glad that's over!" I cringe. I'm just superstitious enough to think it's all been jinxed and what comes next will make what came before look like a picnic in the park.

Oh, how I hope I'm wrong.

One of the interesting terms for the last decade being bandied about is "the naughts." I wondered if the term referred to the double zero starting the decade or the amount of money/job growth/ increase GDP that came from the decade. Maybe both?

Whatever the case may be, the last decade was not good to most Americans. Some flourished profoundly; others lost their jobs, retirement savings and homes. Will the next decade push us once again into a time of flourishing prosperity? Perhaps. But for now, I'm just going to be glad with what I still have. Because it is more than naught.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting ready for the big dance

The slow season is over. The fall isn't a busy time for me. I have some freelance writing and editing assignments but it's not the revolving door of projects I face the other eight months a year.

So I tried to make the most of it. I continued to edit my first book, drafted two more, and started a fourth book. It's ruminating back there and sometimes I visit it, write a little, and chat.

The writer's lament: there's never enough time. And I know if I felt that way before, it's nothing compared to the months ahead. To keep myself centered, I'm making a promise now. No matter how crazy the deadlines, I will spend at least 30 minutes with my writing projects a day.

Thirty minutes isn't that long, right? The time it takes to shower and get dressed in the morning. Fold a load of laundry and start the next. Even cook dinner.

It's my job to find those little time savers. Because daily writing time is more than a gift I give myself every day. It's a driving force, a necessary part of my life. And I need it to feel fulfilled.

What fulfills you? Can you give yourself 30 minutes every day?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pressure Cooker

I'm a TCU alum. And for the first time in my generation, TCU went to a BCS bowl this year. The kids on the team were under extraordinary pressure. The last championship for the school was in 1938. Talk about a dry spell.

Last night's game was a very big deal. My facebook page has been smeared in purple and GO FROGS! notes for days. I can't tell you the number of friends who bought tickets to Phoenix for the game.

And the team lost.

Now, a loss in and of itself really isn't a big deal. It's how the team lost that is so much more painful: Andy Dalton, the quarterback, threw three interceptions. His receivers dropped passes in the end zone. Clearly, the pressure was simply too much. And Murphy's Law prevailed once again (when you REALLY need something, you don't get it).

Most of us are able to avoid a colossal TV meltdown. These kids - from 18 to 22 - had their worst fears realized while broadcast to millions. As a mother, I wonder if the pressure placed on these students is simply too much, too soon. In the scheme of their entire lives, how much - really - does one bowl game matter?

Today I hope the team's fellow Frogs are being supportive and remembering just how far these kids had to come, how deeply they had to dig to claw their way to national prominence. That is a victory that will more than likely be overshadowed by a bitter loss. Unfortunately, that's part of life. You win some big ones and you lose many more. The key, I'm beginning to realize, is the journey and the lessons learned from it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm sleeping with someone new

She's a redheaded diabetic named Ginger, and it's causing quite a stir in the house. Our two other cats pace outside the bedroom door and howl, knowing Ginger is snuggled into the bed covers in between my husband and me.

Ginger's grandma's cat, and grandma has been sick. After spending nearly a month boarded at the veterinary clinic, Ginger was starting to get a little testy. She's used to a lot of cuddles. So we brought her home and learned to administer her daily insulin shots.

Ginger's an important reminder about what really matters in our lives. For grandma, who lost her husband of sixty-plus years in September, Ginger is her lifeline. Her companion, the first thing she asked about when they took her off the ventilator.

We feel the weight of this responsibility. Somehow Ginger's well-being seems tied to grandma's recovery. So sure, we're pampering Ginger right now. And our cats might be upset, but they'll get over it when Ginger goes back home to her own momma. Until then, this cat can sleep with me anytime she wants.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday hype

I love the holidays. I'm typically on an emotional high from Halloween through New Year's. No, I'm not vibrating in anticipation at the thought of presents like my kids. I love the holidays because it's the one time of year we see all of our family. Each year, there is the renewed hope that this year we can all get along well. We love each other after all.

Then reality settles in.

People are not always nice. This is a fact of life. Unfortunately, one comment can lead to hurt feelings, which can lead to tiffs. I immensely dislike this part of the holiday season.

So for upcoming 2010 holidays, we're considering spending less time with our extended family. Maybe that will cure the unnecessary holiday hurts.