Friday, October 31, 2008

Comment: Rethink Consumption.

That’s what a friend told me she saw on a bumper sticker today. And it’s a good mantra. Particularly on a day like today, Halloween, or for those of you with kids, Helloween.

I’m kidding. Sort of.

I love seeing the kids in their costumes. And they love it too.

What I don’t love is the insatiability that rears its ugly head at holidays like this. I mean, if things are bad now, how will they be at Christmas? Birthdays?

My kids are old enough to compare and contrast and count, so they know when one or the other got more “loot” from their school/class. Today my son was in tears and full pout mode because my daughter got more (crap) than him. It wasn’t that he didn’t get treats at his school, (he did), but he didn’t get as many. Argh.

I was vacillating between warning him about going all Veruca Salt on me, and feeling for him, because for a small child these injustices seem so large. Somewhere in between chiding him for greed and consoling him for being sad, he calmed down.

And we haven’t even gone out for trick or treating yet.

It brings me to the disturbing trend in all of us; the constant desire for more. My kids see things in stores and they want them, all of them. I can’t blame them, because I see lots of things I want as well. Especially in Target.

I’ve been trying to curb my spending on things-not-essential, but I have the same problem when confronted with things for sale as my kids do; I want, want, want. And the more I want, the more I want. The snake eats its own tail. Mobius strip madness.

How do you teach a child not to be greedy? Isn’t greed evolutionarily useful? The cave people with the most mastodon meat surely lived the best and longest.

The thing is, we don’t need to hoard our Skittles™ or our little plastic stretchy men that always smell of sweet preservative that makes you slightly nauseated. But we still hoard and hog and want and crave and demand and whine and you get the picture.

I realize that I have to learn to control my own rampant consumer desires if I’m going to teach my kids to do so. Delayed gratification is just so damn hard.

And I want to beat this greed problem NOW.

Looks like I have some work to do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Question: How's the whole "Writing Diet" going?

So this whole food-awareness thing is making me really freakin’ irritable. I find that I think about food just as much as before, but instead of indulging, I’m not. I’m still eating plenty, of course, but I haven’t had chocolate in two days and I feel like kicking a door in.

Is this what Julia Cameron had in mind with her book?

Anyway, I am learning a lot. I am using food to soothe and comfort myself. When you’re the primary caregiver of two small kids, (and probably a host of other combinations of things), you don’t tend to get much, you know, comfort, coddling, pampering. This is why mothers love pedicures. Sure, we could do it ourselves and I almost always do, but there’s something about going somewhere and sitting in a chair and getting a leg massage and turning one of life’s uglier body parts into something pretty that makes a gal go weak in the knees.

I’ve heard there’s a book out now called “Porn for Women” and I think it’s supposed to have pictures of hot guys doing the laundry and emptying the dishwasher. Your life does become pretty unglamorous when you’re the one in charge of cleaning pee off the floor on a daily basis.

But I’m not complaining, I’m just realizing that I have used my Dove chocolates and my chocolate chip cookies to help me feel better when I felt low, since nobody was going to say, “you rock, Em” or “here, let me get that vomit stain cleaned up for you”. It just ain’t gonna happen. So food, or more specifically, “treats” have been what it’s all about.

Now that I am listening to my inner monologue, I can hear things like “I deserve a treat, the kids are put to bed,” or “Treat time, I just finished five loads of laundry,” or “the economy sucks, let’s stick my face in a cake.” Not particualry uncommon nor healthy.

But there it is.

Julia Cameron insists on writing whenever you feel like eating. Needless to say I’ve got reams of pages filled in already and it’s only Day Two of Project “Mind What You Eat”.
But the jury’s still out on the whole thing. I’m honestly enjoying the book, just not the sugar withdrawal.

So we’ll see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Question: When will I learn?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice, I’m a freakin’ idiot.

How many times do little bright supposedly washable crayons have to go through the washer and dryer and stain ever so permanently the many, many clothes whose only sin in life were being slightly soiled before the washer/dryer operator gets a clue? So many lost pieces of clothing now bear the permanent scars of crayon. Washable, my ass.

I feel pretty stupid about letting this happen THREE times in a row. One other time recently, a pen went through, which was possibly my own doing. But what I’ve learned in the past week (yes, it’s only been that long, shut up) is that we have reached a watershed moment in my children’s lives: it’s time to check their pockets.

And that’s not a big deal. Yet.

I’ve had several run-ins with errant wads of Kleenex, but that’s usually a pretty low-damage situation. But what will happen when my little boy puts something I don’t want to see in his pocket and I find it while doing the laundry? Will we have an afterschool special moment or will I just freak out? Or will he or she freak out? Shall I just freak out now?

(As a sidebar, did you know that the Chic song, “Le Freak” aka “Freak Out” was originally written as “F*&* Off”? Apparently members of the band, Chic, were refused entry into Studio 54 and they were pissed off about it, so they wrote that song, but in order for it to get radio play, they had to change the words. True story. VH1 never lies.)

There are so many things that a mother doesn’t want in her children’s pockets. Some things of course that come to mind, are cigarettes, drugs, stolen goods, dead food, condoms, and any form of medication or makeup not officially sanctioned by the matriarchy.

By the time my kids are putting condoms in their pockets they’d better be old enough to do their own damn laundry. I'm terrified just thinking about that.

Seriously, it’s another chapter now. Little pocket treasures. What will I find next?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Comment: Food, Glorious Food

Okay, so I’m trying some new ways of behaving and thinking in regards to food. I’ve never officially been on a diet before, but I’m getting to the point in my life where what I eat tends to stay with me, if you know what I mean.

And I love to eat.

So action must be taken. And I’ve got a few things going on. I exercise a lot, so that’s good. I just read “Such a Pretty Fat” by Jen Lancaster, which basically touts being fit versus fat, and not worrying about every little thing you put in your mouth. Reasonable. And damn funny.

And now I’ve also got “Thin for Life” which is supposed to be filled with people’s success stories of keeping weight off. So once I read some of it, I’ll let you know.

And awhile back I read “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” Which is an arrogant, though apparently somewhat true, aphorism. The author’s main thesis was eat small amounts of what you like, eat slowly, drink lots of water, walk everywhere, and basically don’t be a pig. Which is not as easy as it sounds.

Our whole nation is into piggery, and I for one am as piggish as the next person. I eat when I’m hungry, I eat when I’m stressed, I eat whenever anything remotely palatable is put in front of me.

Which brings me to the other book I have, “”The Writing Diet”. What writer with a muffin top could resist that title? Come on! It’s by Julia Cameron, who became quite famous for her “Artist’s Way” books which ended up helping a ton of people get happier and more creative, myself included. She occasionally borders on what I would deem “New Age” territory, but she’s not pushy about it and she’s very non-denominational.

So far, I’ve read about ten pages and already I’m getting some nuggets of wisdom. (Some would say common sense, but isn’t most common sense a form of wisdom we just tend to gloss over when we should pay attention instead?) She tells you to ask yourself questions before you eat, as in, is this the time, is this what you want, are you even hungry, etc. Already today I noticed that every time my stress level spiked (hearing news about the economy, husband calling that he’ll be home late, kids bickering) I’d crave and reach for a chocolate chip. Now if that only happened once or twice a day, big deal; I mean, it’s a freakin’ chocolate chip!

But when you feel stressy 100 times a day, that’s a lot of chocolate that I don’t need and nor does my metabolism. Food as comfort is not a new concept, of course, but this is the first time that I am honestly looking at what I’m doing and seeing that I eat to feel better and that maybe I should find something else to do to feel better.

Also, you’re supposed to write down everything you eat. I may or may not get to that in the next few days. It sounds scary, but it might be very instructive and/or effective.

So stay tuned. There's bound to be humor found here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Question: Am I wasting my life on Facebook?

This is the question…being a stay-at-home parent, I have many, many, very, very brief opportunities to log on, and log on I do. All day long.

So what does that mean?

I didn’t start out on Facebook looking for anybody. But my stepsister got me started on it, and my stepcousin soon followed, and before I knew it many, many people I knew over 35 were on it and looking to reconnect with their pasts. And that includes me.

And reconnect I have. There have been high and low points. Mostly high. There have been a small handful of old connections that have restarted much to my delight. College friends, especially, have popped up. At first it’s hard to imagine that you have anything in common with people you either got drunk with or puked on two decades ago, but somehow, time’s eternal march has treated many of us in similar fashion: we are married or otherwise attached, we have kids, we work, we play, we get wrinkles. It’s endlessly fascinating to me to see what has become of blasts from my past. Clearly, thousands of other people agree.

I fought it at first. I tried to resist it as another fad for the youngins, but I just couldn’t resist looking up people from my high school days, if only to say hi or see what they look like or who THEIR friends are. My sister sent me a link to a guy we went to high school with and it yielded all sorts of people we thought we’d never even remember, but did. I didn’t do anything about it, but it was fun in a voyeuristic way. It amazes me the things people will put on their sites.

Facebook is fast becoming my crack, nearly eclipsing Coke Zero. I check it compulsively, and if someone I know is on, and I have more than 30 seconds, I end up talking to them whether they like it or not.

But what’s the etiquette on this? I mean, if you see that someone is online, do you chat with them? Do you attempt to engage them just because they’re there? Or do you wait to be engaged? I don’t know.

There are some people to whom I am now facebooked, and except for signing up as friends, there is zero communication between us. What’s up with that? Why connect with someone if you don’t want to, um, connect with them? Like for example someone I know “friended” me and then I accepted and then some time later I saw he was online so I went on and said hi. He was flabbergasted that I would write. Granted it had been a few years since we’d seen each other, but we hadn’t parted on negative terms, at least not that I know of…and HE had friended me! So are we hood ornaments or are we people?

Anyway, the whole Facebook protocol is fascinating and endlessly perplexing. I’m sure some people are just “collecting” friends, and I have to admit that when you call on someone and they only have one or two friends, or worse, NO friends, you feel really shitty for them. But it could be that they actually have something better to do with their lives than idly search the web for old friends and acquainatances. Just a hunch.

So I’m not criticizing people who use Facebook, and I’m not concerned that others are passing it by. It’s just becoming fairly ubiquitous and if it’s affecting Gen Xers, then what of our kids? Will all of their friendships be based online? Will they actually ever see anyone face to face, instead of book to book? Will they just enjoy virtual relationships, hook-ups and break ups without getting up off the couch?

I should probably be concerned.

Or maybe I'll just go look for another new old friend. They're out there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Question: Did you ever think you’d be 41 years old and wearing princess bandaids?

Because that’s where I am right now.

We’re heavily into princesses in my house. This in spite of the fact that the only Disney movies my daughter has seen are Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderellla.

That means we haven’t even touched Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Pocohontos or Mulan. Oy.

My mother in law, on a recent visit, expressed concern about my daughter’s obsession with princesses. The most upsetting part to her (and to me) is swallowing the part about a princess absolutely needing to marry or be saved by a prince. I fully agree with her. I didn’t realize it was all seeping into my daughter’s growing brain, but it is. Already.

Yes, she is already playing “princess wedding” at preschool. I’m not saying this is cause for major alarm, but an awareness that she doesn’t have to marry the prince to make her dreams come true is pretty important. And it’s important pretty soon, since she has already obviously internalized it.

The whole princess culture meets the celebrity-obsessed skinny model/actress world a little too neatly. Only there, it isn’t so much the handsome prince saving her, as the major TV or film studio. What follows for princesses or celebrities is an adoring public and stellar expectations that can never be achieved. (see Britney Spears)

Since the US bases its entire identity on not having a monarchy, it’s pretty ironic that we’ve created our own. Celebrities are the new princesses.

And before long my daughter is going to be not just all over the princesses that Disney has confected for us, but Hannah Montana and Barbie and all those skinny High School Musical starlets. I’m anxious about how to help her navigate her way through all of this with even a shred of self-esteem intact.

If my life is any indication, insecurity starts early and never really goes away completely. We all want to feel like princesses but we often don’t.

But as grown women, we (hopefully) know we don’t have to get married or hook up or get signed to a major label/studio to be considered fabulous and beautiful. We as girls and women need to stand on our own two feet, whether we wear Birkenstocks or Doc Martens, Manolo Blahniks or Chucks.

Fight Princess Culture! Teach your daughter not to place her dreams in someone else’s (male) hands. Teach her she can achieve her dreams, whatever they are. And don’t forget to teach your sons that, too. How they see women affects how your daughters will be treated.

We have a lot of work to do.

Where shall we begin?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comment: Who is "real"?

I’m not an American, but I play one on TV.

Actually I am an American.

No really, I mean, I have a passport, and one for Canada too, (thank-you-very-much-dual-citizenship-rocks!) but according to the Republicans, I’m not American.

Rep. Robin Hayes basically said that anyone who wasn’t dry-humping* the Republican party was not American.

Here’s the quote: "Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God."


Is this for real? Who is swallowing this? Apart from the grammatical error that offends the English teacher in me, it just doesn’t make any sense.

First, liberals. That phrase just covers so many people that it seems to exist merely as an epithet for anyone who doesn’t think exactly like the Republicans. Of course the implication here is that liberals aren’t even real Americans, and may not even be human. Perhaps they’re some sub-species. But gosh do they recycle and drive nice little Priuses!

Pulling God into the whole thing is irrelevant. Whatever I or you or they believe, that has nothing to do with anything regarding government. Didn’t the founding fathers kind of make a point of that way back when? I’m just sayin’. But of course maybe they told us something different in Canada so we wouldn’t feel bad. Or good. Or something.

This sentence also implies that there are no “liberals” who believe in God. So why didn’t they just say atheists? What are they really trying to say? It’s not that hard to figure out.

It’s scary.

And Hayes isn’t even the only one. Palin made some creepy remarks about Obama “not seeing American like you and I do.” Again, WTF?

And what about Nancy Pfotenhauer’s whole “real Virginia” thing? Here’s the quote:
"As a proud resident of Oakton, Virginia, I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia…But the rest of the state, 'real Virginia,' if you will, I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message."

This is getting out of hand.

We must not tolerate intolerance.

* Of course there's no real sex. Chastity First! No, sorry, Country First. Chastity Second? But that puts Family Values third? That can’t be right....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Comment: Haircut Angst

I’m glad that my kids like the slow-moving, well-acted BBC version of The Chronicles of Narnia. At times its low-end special effects really grate, but honestly, it’s a good set of DVDs. A long, long set, which I don’t think anyone in family has fully watched, even cumulatively. Some friends of ours gave it to us and after playing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe umpteen times about two years ago, we shelved it for awhile.

But lately it’s enjoying a renaissance. Now that both of my kids can follow a plot, they are pretty into it. It’s got heroics, a witch, magic, and it’s all about real (actors) kids, so it’s relatable. Beats the hell out of some Violent Monster Truck Cracktastic Cotton Candy Hour.

But as usual, I digress.

What’s on my mind is the fact that today my kids got haircuts, and what I thought was an overly wispy number on my son was actually a good haircut.

Which I ruined.

A little bit.

I tried to trim my son’s bangs and now it looks like he had an uneven bowl put on his head and I trimmed his hair with blunt kiddie scissors.

It really upset me, and I wasn’t sure why, since it didn’t upset my son. (And I certainly didn’t let him know I was upset.) But here’s what I am realizing: I’m upset because I care about what other kids might say to him. You know, the sarcastic, “nice haircut, kid” stuff that that older kids might do. I don’t think the Kindergarteners will do it, they’re still sweet, but you know, it just brings up the whole thing of not being able to protect our kids from the slings and arrows of outrageous gnarliness anda ll that. I can almost feel my guts ripping out when I think of anyone being mean to my children. And I fear the fact that my kids may be mean themselves.

We can’t always be there for our kids. We have to have the faith and trust (and hope) that they will manage in the big bad world without us. We have to teach them that they are valuable and special and that everyone else is, too. Then if someone says something snarky about a bad haircut, it won’t matter. Or at least not that much.

Am I a little extra sensitive today? Chalk it up to a combination of hormones, it being almost November, impending Daylight Savings Revocation, exhaustion and low-level stress. Oh, and my birthday is in two weeks. That always throws me for a loop.

But I stick with my premise that we have to prepare our kids for life, but then get out of the way.

And that is the hardest thing any of us will ever do.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comment: Weekend Update

So we did indeed walk at the walk-a-thon.

In fact, we rocked the walk-a-thon.

I didn’t think my kids would walk more than a few laps, but my son walked three miles, and my three-year-old walked two miles! They certainly earned their sugartastic cupcakes when they were done.

Okay, I confess…it was actually…fun.

I didn’t feel like I had to be a cheerleader or rah rah team player or anything I’m not. We just walked around and around with other kids and their parents and enjoyed the sunshine and the camaraderie.

My greatest joy was watching my son walking with his “buddy” from second grade. Every kindergartner is assigned a buddy and his is a lovely girl who hugs him when she sees him, helps him when he needs it, and actually walked around the track multiple times with him. Then he teamed up with a friend from his class and they stuck together like glue for the rest of the time.

Sure, some kids did five, even ten miles, and some kids and their parents were clad head to toe in their matching t-shirts, but we had fun. And in today’s age of virtual overtaking actual community, it was nice to actually be around people doing stuff.

Oh and I did get each kid a t-shirt, even though my son didn’t want to wear his. Doh.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comment: New at this whole elementary school culture thing

There are a few things I didn’t know about kindergarden etiquette. And the first one is the dang spelling. In Canada, it’s spelled with a D, and in the States it’s kindergarten. So I constantly get mixed up about that and this annoys me because I pride myself on being an excellent speller. Ahh, hubris.

Anyway, for example, the first big school-wide fundraiser is set to occur this weekend. Like many other schools, we are doing a walk-a-thon. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my day, (creak) we had to solicit sponsors door-to-door in an endlessly humbling and hideous progression up and down the streets in our neighborhood. It didn’t matter if we didn’t know them; they were our neighbors, or rather, neighbours. It was the norm to scope out your neighborhood and knock on everyone’s door within a certain walking radius.

Nowadays? Not so much.

We’d no sooner loose our elementary school aged kids on a systematic neighborhood door-to-door pilgrimage than leave them home alone with premium cable with some random guy we met at the Quik Mart.

I’m not going to subject my child to the humiliations and possible breach of security of going door to door to houses that happen to be on my block, when we only know a few of our neighbors; nor am I going to put the neighbors we don’t know in the oh so awkward position of contributing money to a kid they don’t know. I’m only asking people we already know well for contributions; so far we have one, from my son’s grandparents. And that’s it.

On the walk-a-thon registration form, there’s a line that asks for a $25 donation to offset costs. So we have to donate a certain amount to get to do the walking in the first place! I’m happy to cough up some bucks for the school, but that seems like a lot of pressure on a kid who’s only been in school for two months to have to raise that much money.

And another thing: you were supposed to pre-order the student-designed walk-a-thon shirts. I skimmed over that section of the information packet (and believe me, it was a freakin’ PACKET o’ PAPERS) and honestly? I didn’t think my kids needed yet more t-shirts that they would wear all of once. However I felt sheepish several days later when a super-nice and elementary-experienced mom got hers for all three of her kids and gushed about how excited she was for them to all wear them as they walked.


Are my kid and his preschool-aged sister going to be the ONLY ones at the walk-a-thon without t-shirts? Am I setting my son up for some kind of pariah-ship? I hate to think he’ll feel left out, but the only way I’m getting a shirt for him or his sister is if I go early and try to score some from the no-show pile. Not bloody likely. We have a hard enough time getting out of the house early on weekdays.

So with the prospect of my son going t-shirt-less and sponsor-less to the walk-a-thon, how should I feel? Should I be learning something here about participation, or should I just not give a flying fig because nobody is even going to remember this event in two years?

We worry that we’ll traumatize our children if they aren’t just like everyone else, if they stand out in a way that could make them uncomfortable. But my family is just not made up of major “joiners.” We don’t like going to amusement parks, large family events, family fairs, fundraising jamborees or evenings in the park with half of the city there. None of us are in any kind of club and we all balk at the idea of joining groups. I’ve joined groups but never attended any meetings. You get the idea.

But we are happy to do things that our children want to do, but they don’t seem that excited by this.

So if I’m not excited, and my son’s not excited, am I supposed to manufacture the excitement for this family fundraiser this weekend?

It just leaves me a little cold. So stay tuned to see if we do actually go, and if we do manage to pay a small fortune for a t-shirt and if my son actually walks more than once around the track. And if there are any other non-joiners out there walking the wrong way on the track or wearing a radical t-shirt with no writing on it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question: Since when do we defer so much to kids?

The other day there was a big boy in the sand area at the park where numerous children (including mine) were playing, and he was whipping sand around from one of our sand toys, so I said, “Can you stop doing that?” and he just looked at me blankly and with mild irritation. So without thinking, I said, “Please, can you stop?” Blank look. Then by way of explanation, I said, “There are a lot of little kids around here and we don’t want them getting sand in their eyes.” This was true. It seemed finally good enough for him. So he stopped.

Apparently a grown up politely asking a child to change his behavior is unusual. Or at least this child seemed to think so. There was no parent or adult authority figure that I could affiliate with the kid, who couldn’t have been more than 10 or so. But he was so unmoved by my friendly attempt at authority.

After it happened I felt really lame; why was I begging/asking a kid, becoming a supplicant, when he was doing something obnoxious and WITH OUR OWN SAND TOYS, no less? I was irritated. And then I let it slide.

But it came back to me, because I notice how we often talk to our children: Can you please do this? Would you like to take a bath? And it reminded me of when I was getting my teaching credential and I had a brilliant teacher named Bethany who warned us about using overly polite language when working with teenagers. She said that if you suggested that the students sit down, it wasn’t enough. If you said, “Would you like to do some work now?” it was would be perfectly reasonable and predictable for the teenager to say “no.”

Because you gave them a choice.

And if you give teenagers a choice, they’ll choose the option that’s most convenient to them, not you.

But it isn’t only true for teenagers. It’s true for kids of all ages.

We give our kids too many choices.

Do you want peanut butter or almond butter? Cream cheese or American cheese? Blue’s Clues or Barney? This shirt or that one?

It’s the tyranny of choice.

And I’m as guilty as the next person to couch my commands in a pleading either/or form.

But at a certain point, we need to be grown-ups and say, Here is your choice: sometimes there isn’t one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Comment: Silence is Golden, or possibly Silver



This is rare in my home, and rarer still in my mind. I don’t know how to be quiet very well. In fact the only time I am quiet is if I’m in a meeting and I’m not on as a speaker or participant, or when I’m alone drinking coffee. I may be silent but usually there is some kind of noise going on. I think I fear silence, in a way. And I’m not alone. By the number of people who are surgically attached to their cell phones 24/7, it’s obvious that I’m not alone. We all seek constant comfort, reassurance, and distraction in the form of other, which usually involves noise.

This is why meditation is so difficult for me. And most of the planet.

When we are asked to just hush, it’s almost so easy it’s hard. Or so hard it’s easy. But to maintain silence, to sit with quiet, that’s another story altogether. I am particularly unaccustomed to silence as I live in a home with two small children. Silence is truly golden, and rare, in my home.

Even at night, the snuffly, snore-y sounds fill the air. Dad snores. And often, one child or the other needs mom, or, usually, dad, since he’s the go-to guy at night. Fans, white noise, we crave some kind of sound to keep us feeling sane and help us relax enough to get to sleep.

I both love and fear silence. It makes me feel like jumping up and doing something. It makes me feel like filling it. But I am starting to get the idea that maybe filling it isn’t always in my or other people’s best interest.

Sitting still quietly doing nothing is our ultimate challenge, and it’s one I seem to be avoiding almost every day. We long for quiet but when we get it, like a dog chasing a car, we don’t know what to do with it. We flip on the radio, pick up the phone, or fill our aural silence with verbal noise, through texting, emails, IMs. There are so many ways now to fill our silences. And we are compulsive about doing so.

It feels like silence is going to make our heads explode. If I just sit and do nothing, and hear nothing, maybe that means I am nothing. Or maybe it means I’m everything. And everyone.

But when I feel myself silent, I am constantly waiting to be interrupted. I don’t know a life that is not interrupted with either physical noise or mental chatter. My mind constantly overflows, and silencing it rarely happens. Sometimes when I am running and listening to my Ipod, I feel silent inside, but technically that’s not silence, because I am playing music and pounding the pavement as I do so.

Still, a meditative state isn’t necessarily quiet, but I think it probably should be. If you are busy listening to other things then you’re not really present in the moment and thus aren’t really silent. Listen to nothing. That’s the hardest thing in the world to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever last more than a few seconds without the mental noise piping in through my cerebral speakers, like bad muzak at a mall that’s unstoppable and unappealing.

But at least once in awhile, I need to turn off NPR, tune out the kids and their video, turn off the Itunes and shut up and sit still.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Comment: Remembering Random Stuff

I remember wearing a red and yellow choker around my neck and a blue leotard and having the Olympics in the back yard with my sister and the neighborhood girls. I looked like a boy and longed to be a girly-girl.

I remember going to music camp and having a massive crush on Nicholas -------, who would never love me because I was skinny and ugly and awkward. But he liked me because I was funny and non-threatening and I knew the girl he swooned for, an aloof and busty French girl whose family was so rich they had her flown in to camp on an aquaplane. Me? I could barely paddle a canoe without falling in. Tipping was fun and scary because the initial tip was good, but the threat of touching evil, murky, slimy seaweed forever terrified me and had for as long as I could remember.

I remember hearing that story of the man who jumped into the man-made lake to save a kid and how his legs got caught in the seaweed and he died. It was a pond at the local amusement park and every time we rode over it on the monorail it filled me sadness and fear and regret and great anxiety. I thought about the man, who I think was a police officer, and how he was pulled down forever in his valiant attempt to save someone whose stroller got too close to the edge.

I remember my no name corduroys, and feeling gawky and ugly in high school with all the curvy, sophisticated girls who had their periods. High school started so early where I lived; grade 7 and you’re in with the 17 year olds. Since I’d skipped a grade, I was 11 in there with teenagers, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

I remember the smoking section, yes, in those days, there was a sanctioned smoking section for the STUDENTS, if you can believe it. (This was somewhere during the Paleozoic Era for you history buffs.) I remember watching Andrea ----- transform from a geekyish girl to a cool smoker girl because she dated this guy Sean who was a rebel and cool and she just changed overnight from a good girl to a sort of bad and cool girl. They started wearing matching jean jackets.

Sean spit on my face in first grade and I remember it still because it hurt me deeply. We were later performing together in a school play and of course he didn’t remember. He turned out to be a decent yet cool guy (the two were not, apparently, mutually exclusive) and he apologized when I told him. He was mortified. I don’t think there is anything much more demeaning than being spit on. It’s some kind of primal reflex to respond with (a) anger, (b) shame, or (c) a combination of both that is quite a toxic blend. If you’ve ever been spit on, I’m sure you can remember when, who, and how. But you may never know why. Why indeed does the spitter spit? It’s a question for the ages.

I remember “heavenly hash” ice cream, which, in retrospect, is a really funny and inappropriate name for a food that children and adults eat legally. It was just chocolate chips, nuts, and marshmallow swirls in chocolate ice cream, and in the US it’s probably called rocky road or shaky highway, or hideous road trip or something, but nobody in the family really liked it; and yet we always bought it and ate it for dessert every night. Ours was a house of ice cream for one and all. There was never any doubt that ice cream would be served after a meal. But the hands-down absolute worst flavor was the “maple walnut” ice cream. Only my dad loved it and yet we were all forced to endure it. Eating it was like licking a maple tree.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Comment: Doing Things the Hard Way

I have come to my conclusion that I try way too hard sometimes. If you know me, this is, of course, not a shock, but a great big DUH. For as long as I can remember, I’ve done things the hard way. Why? Who knows? Maybe I love a challenge. Or maybe I’m a little challenged, and that makes me take the long way home instead of the short cut, if you’ll excuse the hideous Supertramp reference.

But this whole parenting thing, sure, it’s hard. But the happiest parents are the ones with the happiest kids, and the happiest parents and kids are the ones who don’t try so freakin’ hard all the time. I believe Ariel Gore once said, “It takes a lot of loafing to raise a child.” I remember reading this when I had an infant, and I thought, sure, this woman’s on crack, how can a person just lie around while there is so much to DO?

But she’s right. Do less, be more. This is powerful advice, and deeper than it looks.

But such is our affliction in this pampered Western culture. We always need to DO something and we need to do it NOW. Why? I think at the heart of it, it’s to make ourselves feel important. And to distract us from feeling like sacks of crap, which we do, most or part of the time. Distraction is the ultimate activity. Which is why meditating is so dang difficult. And so dang important.

When I have a spare minute, I immediately find something to do. The whole point of meditation is to DO absolutely nothing. Then feelings, thoughts, emotional ups and downs, questions, comments, and complaints can surface, and you just label them and brush them off.

This is so much harder than it sounds.

And yet, I’m someone who tends to do things the hard way anyway, so why not try to do something hard, even though it involves doing nothing? There’s a paradox for you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Question: Why do I eat and rue?

I’ve just finished eating myself stupid at Marble Slab Creamery and now I’m regretting it. This is the type of shame spiral that seems endemic to our super-sized and wealthy culture.

Okay maybe now we’re just super-sized; nobody’s wealthy anymore.

The whole system is bollixed, but all we can do right now is wait and see how many more damn shoes are going to drop.

Back to the ice cream. I ate every drop I had. Sure, I was hungry, and it was kid-sized, but in this country kid-sized is freaking huge. No wonder obesity is on the rise.

After eating it, I feel remorse and guilt. And I ate it with my mother-in-law who swore she wasn’t going to have anything, had something, and is now also ruing it.

What is wrong with us? By us, I mean most women I know and love? Why can’t we just EAT?

Instead, we eat, then we feel guilty; those who are truly troubled make themselves physically ill to remove the traces of their guilt. It’s a hideous cycle empowered by all the stick thin child-women who populate our screens everywhere we turn.

Awhile back Kate Winslet was “accused” of getting fat. Are you kidding me? There’s no fat on her. She’s got curves and she’s gorgeous. Why are we buying this? Because we are, sadly, buying it hook, line and sinker.

The guilt is pervasive. Even though I don’t watch network TV (except Lost, I’m not made of stone) I’m still barraged by magazines, online articles and pictures, and the obsessive people all around me trying to control their urge to stick their faces in their pint of Ben and Jerry’s and inhale.

The most soothing things to me are running and eating. So if I can’t run, I eat. Mostly chocolate, or ice cream. I’m not definitionally overweight, but I obsess about my muffin top and watch gravity take its toll as I age and agonize over the things I put in my mouth.

Why can’t I just enjoy my damn Chunky Monkey?

I want to.

But I can’t seem to shake the guilt.

I’m raising two kids, one of whom is a girl. How do I teach her to eat healthily and without guilt when I can’t manage yet?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Question: What's going to happen?

Things are, to quote Tom Petty, “Free fallin’, they’re-a free fallin’. That song has been in my head a lot as I watch the numbers plummet, and see the panic and/or despair in people’s eyes when we talk about what’s going on.

I’m not an economic expert, but I am related to one. She’s a PhD in economics and worked at Harvard Business School for many years where the students are rude and arrogant and the teachers don’t get tenure. She works at a much nicer place now, where students are respectful and she gets tenure.

But I digress.

I’m going to be consulting her for her take on things, but I can’t reach her at the moment so it’s just me. I don’t know what the hell is happening but it isn’t good.

Suddenly recreational shopping doesn’t sound so appealing. The mall really does seem quieter this past week, and no wonder. Who wants to buy frivolous shit when people are losing their houses, their retirement accounts, and their investments? It’s scary.

And the whole world is getting sucked into the gaping maw of this disaster.

Does anyone understand what is going on?

A better question: does anyone know what to actually do that will work?

Perhaps the answer is that since we as a collective country made this mess, we are going to have to clean it up, coming in the form of less errant and extravagant spending, and less consumer lust for all things shiny, big, and/or electronic.

Guess my kids are going to get a crash course in economics. Good thing we haven’t started giving them allowances.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Comment: I am a klutz.

As I am a pretty energetic person (some may say “hyper”) and need to move every day, I exercise a lot. I didn’t start exercising in earnest until I was in my late 20s. I didn’t choose to, and i didn't have to, as I was skinny and drank instead and could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. People probably hated watching me scarf down milkshakes and seabreezes and remain thin, but all I wanted was my friends’ fabulous curves, of which I never got any, even to this day.

But then I got older. And heavier. I spent two years teaching preschool and gained 20 pounds eating Goldfish © crackers and peanut butter with the rest of the kids. Oops.

So I started exercising. And I actually enjoyed it. But you should know this: I am a klutz. In gym class I was always the second to last person picked. I couldn’t kick or catch a ball and my eyes-on-the-prize gym teachers never let me try because I couldn’t do it, but how do you learn to do something if you never get to try, you dream-crushing fascists? (I have a few unresolved issues with P.E. And no, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Anyway, so I’m not athletic. But I like to ride exercise bikes and run on treadmills. Once I started doing it on a regular basis, I found my mood to be consistently elevated, my manners better, and my fat rolling off. So it was a win-win.

But that was many years ago. And doing the same exercise routine for years at a time can get dull. So I started buying DVDs. I ‘m a fan of Karen Voight, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for her stuff. One of her workouts, if done in full, is 84 minutes long—who has that kind of time?!

As I exercise a lot, I get bored with things pretty easily so I like a variety to my workouts. My husband solves this problem not by varying his workout but by varying the TV he watches while he works out on the exercise bike. But as we don’t have TV, he’s actually watching on a laptop perched precariously on the handlebars. The time just flies by as he watches the latest “The Office.”

I, on the other hand, can’t do that, as it requires BALANCE, of which I have little. The one time I tried to have my laptop up on the handlebars of said bike, the computer was so tippy I had to hold on tight to it the whole time and ended the workout with a crick in my shoulders and one wobbly episode of "Lost" under my belt.

So I used to do a ton of Tae Bo. I was pretty zealous and really enjoyed it. But some of the herky-jerky motions just don’t sit as well with a person of my advancing age. Everyone on set in his videos is buffer than buff and nary a drop of fat is apparent. Meanwhile me and my little muffin top are trying to stay on top of things, and it’s a bit of a losing battle. Age, gravity, lack of coordination.

But he kept the variety coming. Every few months, Billy Blanks comes up with a new way to recycle the five or so basic moves he has invented/perfected. First, it was holding and flexing in the Flex workout series. Then it was resistance bands that anchored around your feet. They were awesome. The workouts were challenging and at times, fun.

Then Billy added a one pound weight to the bands and made them extreme and all that and it was even harder. What a workout!

Problem is, resistance tubing tends to…break. And snap off dramatically, knocking the user over and possibly causing a very nasty mark where the rubber hits the skin.

THEN he came up with this baton thing that weights 3 lbs and is used to hurl around like some sort of aerobic ninja. For a klutzy person, this is not necessarily a good idea.

See, there’s this section where you “play baseball” and swing the stick like a bat, and I’m forever afraid I’ll end up smashing the window when the stick leaves my hand and flies across the room. It’s only a matter of time.

In another signature move, where you’re basically whacking the shit out of the air in front of you, all I can think of is how it’s just like Michael Jackson in the “Black and White” video when he trashes a car for no good reason. (This should have told us something about his mental state.)

So my most recent foray is the stability ball. I bought this ecologically sound, literally green ball, and attempted to inflate it. Even at full inflation, it’s too small for me. I’m almost 5 feet 10, and my legs are practically over my ears when I sit on it. It’s ridiculous. The twist in all this is that there is resistance tubing you can use while you sit or lie on the ball.

I was just trying it out today to see what muscles I could beat into submission. Well. There’s a point at which you put the resistance tubing UNDER the ball, and then lie on TOP of the ball so you can do chest presses and such. I tried to do it and the tubing kept slipping out. Okay, try again. I thought I finally had it, but I shifted on the ball and the tubing came FLYING up over the ball, smacked me hard on the head and proceeded to get tangled in my hair.

I could not make this up if I tried.

I burst out laughing and was thankful there was no audience for this performance.

Some kind person I knew once told me that I’m not really a big klutzy person, but actually a small, graceful person trapped in a big body, resulting in my not knowing where the ends of my limbs are. That was charitable.

No more tubing for me today. Think I’ll get back on the exercise bike. But no laptops. I think if I practice, I might be able to hold a magazine without dropping it while I ride.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Question: What is Bella to Edward?

Yes, a little more obsessing about the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.

So if Bella is like crack to Edward Cullen, it gets really complicated because he is both in love with her AND has to fight not to literally eat her up whenever he’s around her. I’ve been trying to think about an equivalent for reality, so I could try to understand this fiction.

I’m probably asking too much here.

But in any event, I guess what it comes down to is if I were in love with someone who was made entirely of Reeses’© peanut butter cups. I could try to kiss them, but it would be hard not to nibble on them. They’d be pretty delicate, which is how Bella appears to Edward.

So what would it be like to be in love with someone who was, for example, made entirely of Chubby Hubby© ice cream? You’d have to be so careful. And the urge to snack would be brutal.

Could you love something that you wanted to devour? Is the love affair I have with my Dove© dark chocolate morsels like Edward’s love for Bella?

No. Because of the whole soul thing. Even though Bart Simpson claims there isn’t one, Edward appears to be in love with Bella’s soul IN ADDITION to the fact that she’s like a big Cadbury Easter Crème Egg© or the equivalent of his favorite food in the entire universe.

Does that help?

Maybe I should just suspend my disbelief.

And someone should seriously be sponsoring me with all the product placement here.

Dammit, now I'm hungry.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Comment=There is a lesson at the arcade.


I know The Who already sang in great detail about it, but I haven't heard anyone go in this particular direction with this metaphor. (Though surely someone already has.)

I couldn’t help but think today that I was spending a lot of time just reacting to things, and bouncing all over the place on the emotional spectrum. I felt a lot like I was being tossed from mood to mood, bitchy and grouchy being primary ones, with rage and fussiness also showing up, finally capped off by elation after a long run. (Note to self: Go running at the BEGINNING of the day on the weekends or risk becoming a nuisance to all who surround you.)

It reminded me of the way a pinball gets shot out into the machine, then just goes wild slamming into things that light up and things that make sounds and things that go boo in the night and then just when you think it’s all over there’s this marvelous thing possibly called hope, or perhaps encouragement thanks to the flippers, and back it goes into the fray.

Then, after flailing around and ricocheting off every blunder, joy, problem, person and place, the ball gets sucked down into the belly of the machine and it’s game over.

That about covers it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Question: Is our ever-expanding obsession with Facebook a good thing?

So I read somewhere that more people are spending more time on Facebook and other similar sites than at porn sites. Interesting. This is a change in behavior.

Apparently we are interested in telling our friends/audience what we are doing, how we are feeling, and why, every five minutes. And we seem to enjoy reading about our friends’ every sigh and comment, too.

As someone who formerly mocked Facebook and wrote a scathing essay on its lack of merit, I have to conquer with the above-mentioned information.

NO, I wasn’t looking at porn before, and even I were, that’s none of your business, or rather, everyone’s, since everything on the web is public.

(Sending a personal, even encrypted note to someone? Don’t make it something you’ll be embarrassed about later, because it’s all traceable.)

What I am saying is that even someone who mocks Facebook, like myself, is now using it EVERY day. I check to see what my friends/audience are doing, and to tell them what I am doing. It’s a little scary.

I can feel the narcissism growing like a weed. It’s getting downright wanktastic on my Facebook page, and I don’t even have any pictures. Some people pretty much have their whole life out on display on their pages, and it seems as though it’s a cheap and easy way to socialize, as least virtually. Everyone can see my everything and I don’t even have to leave the house! It’s like show and tell, every day.

What does this say for the future of our social skills?

Personal presentation? Boatloads. Actual interaction? Not so much. Are we too busy telling everyone who we are to see who they are? Or is it more like the whole reality TV thing—everything is out there, and thank you for looking? Please come again.

Ultimately I think we’re all just enjoying starring in our own shows. And if there are people we like watching, we’re happy. And if they’re not, we can watch them. We’re all voyeurs when it comes right down to it.

And porn is just a skanky form of voyeurism.

So maybe we’ve evolved. We’re now looking a little more on the insides of people as opposed to their outsides.

Could this be progress?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Question: Do any of you (Canadians) remember this ad?

I was just remembering an old commercial from my childhood days in Canada. It was for a new and thin maxi pad that was folded up and covered in a “discreet” polka-dotted plastic. It wasn’t that small, but it was for the time (the early 80s) . The premise was that a set of spies were trying to get “the microfilm” from this sexy female spy. The dumb-ass male spy grabs her maxi pad instead, and says: “We have you now. We have the microfilm!” And she says, in some indeterminate accent, “Dat’s not it, you fool.”

It was on one level the dumbest commercial ever. What kind of spy thinks a polka dotted maxi pad is microfilm? I mean, sure, floppy disks were big then, but come on! This new pad wasn’t that thin anyway. Things didn’t really improve for the ladies in that department until the 90s or so, when ultra ultra thin with wings and stay-dri cover © and industrial-strength adhesives were put to good use.

I mean, I remember when I first got my period. I was old, even for back then. 15! So I was more than looking forward to it as some sort of mark that I was indeed turning into a woman, even though I remained stubbornly hairless and flat as a board.

So when it did finally come, my mom pulled out a maxi pad the size of my bedroom pillow. I nearly passed out. This was supposed to go between my legs? I’d be walking like Cowboy Joe at the O.K. Corral.

And my mom was not into tampons (no pun intended, eww). I don’t know why, and I never asked. But later, toxic shock syndrome was big in the news and possibly this is why my mother kept no tampons in the house or within a five-block radius.

Ahh, feminine hygiene. Talking about it makes men so uncomfortable. It cracks me up. I mean, it’s just another bodily function. But certainly I don’t feel like advertising it when I’m in my “womanly condition.” Remember in high school, girls, when you had to carry your pad/tampon undiscovered to the girls’ room, where you had to make your private transaction as quietly as possible and not let the metal lid clang down and advertise to the world that you were indeed “visiting Aunt Rose.”

Which brings me back to the ad I was reminiscing about. It was downright BRILLIANT to have a man actually handling a maxi pad, and the fact that he thought it was microfilm in a plastic polka dotted case is hilarious.

I’d like to thank the advertising exec who came up with that. She had an agenda, on behalf of women everywhere. Put a pad in the hands of a man! Well played, my friend, well played.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Comment: The VP Debate

So I listened to the debate, but didn't get to see it, as the traffic was so high on the Internet that we couldn't get any streaming online live coverage. I will try to see some more of it on Youtube or in reruns.

But let's just say that neither candidate was embarrassing, at least from the auditory standpoint.

Sarah Palin sounded way folksy but not hesitant, and she managed to re-route questions anytime they weren't her prescribed talking points.

Biden did not babble on and did a good job digging in and attacking McCain's record. I also learned something I did not know about him, that he lost two members of his family. How horrible. It sounded like he broke for a second, but since I couldn't see him, I don't know.

The questions were pretty softball except for the gay marriage one, which they both agreed on anyway.

Spent a few minutes i-chatting with an old friend from my homeland, who was also trying to watch a Canadian debate occurring simultaneously. Could the two countries have not discussed this ahead of time so that they could pick two different nights? We bi-citizens of Canada/USA like to keep on both countries, thank you very nice.

Anyway, there's a boatload of analysis being manically typed into computers as we speak (Hey! Like right here!) so go and enjoy the wealth of commentary that's out there and I shall do the same.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Comments: A veritable melange of musings on various topics

So I’m sitting here listening to Renee Montaigne and Steve Inskeep. They soothe my soul, those lovely NPR announcers. I am never alone when I have my radio. I’m such a geek.

Anyway, I’m reading this amazing book called “Rockabye” by Rebecca Woolf, a young mom who is way cooler than me or most people and also a much better writer than most. She has the kind of writing skill that makes you almost ill, it’s so good. She is able to speak lyrically about her child. So often, writing about motherhood can get mired in mushy, romantic images that are a dime a dozen. But not in this book.

Here, Woolf fully expresses the passion and deep love of motherhood, without sentimentalizing it. Her turns of phrase are amazing. I keep having to re-read what I’ve read because it’s so good. It's keeping me from my teen vampire habit.

And I’m only halfway through. She talks a lot about her identity and being an individual as well as a mother, but not in a strident way. She is a curious and intelligent new mother and she takes us along on her journey.

So by all means, check this book out.

Anyway, I’m a little freaked out today, because I just watched some clips of the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview, which I know, I know, was on weeks ago, but we don’t have network TV so I hadn’t gotten to it.

It scared me to see how unprepared she is for being Vice-President, let alone President. She is being trotted around like a pretty show horse, which is insulting and disturbing. (And it’s not a comment on the fact that she’s a woman or that she’s conventionally good-looking. I’m strictly talking about how McCain “handles” her. It’s creepy.)She is obviously qualified to be doing certain things, and there’s no question she is ambitious and determined. Fair play.

But when you actually hear her speak about issues, it’s scary to see how little she knows, and how inarticulate she is. There are plenty of politicians who don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but they can at least talk a good talk. Palin needs more experience talking to people and thinking for herself. She does not cover her ignorance on issues well, and ends up sounding like an apologist for McCain with no opinions of her own, unless she has his permission. It’s a little scary.

So I’m just thinking that if McCain does get elected, this woman is the second in command for the whole COUNTRY.

I know I’m not the first to say all of this. I’m probably the thousandth, but honestly, think about it: if you haven’t heard her speak, go listen. Compare her knowledge, skills and experience with Hillary Clinton. Are you sure this is what you want?

And finally, in today’s news, I have no idea what’s going to happen with the economy. It’s actually quite scary and makes me want to learn to churn my own butter and weave my own clothes. Things could get pretty tight around here for some time. And we’re so spoiled as Americans, because for us, it’s all about consuming. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We ate too much and now we’re bloated and have indigestion. And there’s no Pepto Bismol left in the house.