Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween In Our Little Hamlet

This week, as you know, is Halloween. It's one of my very favorites, if not my most favorite holiday on the calendar.

You see, at one time, I entertained dreams of theatre stardom... thankfully, I came to terms very early on that I wasn't made of the kind of stuff theatre people need to be - that is the ability to stay positive in the face of constant rejection and long periods without a substantial paycheck. Instead, once a year, I get to stretch what's left of my thespian muscle and dress up. Now, to be honest, since my daughter entered my life, I haven't done any of the dressing up myself. What I know of costuming gets put into her annual creation.

I've had some greats, if I do say so myself. There was the pirate with parrot (or since she was 4 at the time, parakeet) sewn to the shoulder. The year she wanted to be an American Idol contestant (not too difficult, but got rave reviews). Or last year's flower with roots (a 1st place prize winner). They may not sound all that impressive, but the details would have blown you away.

This year she is a German girl. I was inspired by a milk ad with Heidi Klum. She's going to look adorable; braid rings and tasseled socks included. And as is tradition, she and my husband will go out trick or treating while I stay home to pass out candy. It's a job I freely accept since I like to see what other parents put into costuming their own children (as well as themselves). It's a peek into a personality, don't you agree? Let's be honest, the person that puts that slutty nurse costume on themselves, has a little bit of slutty nurse in them.

So here's my gripe... (any regular reader of my little blog knows there has to be some complaint-filled question to the universe). Why are there so many parents dressed in amazingly detailed ensembles, all of which say "Look At Me", while their kids are in their Power Rangers pjs calling it a costume? I'm back on that issue of priorities.

I can appreciate the parent wearing a costume in the spirit of the holiday because it means something to children that their parents get involved and act like big kids themselves sometimes. I can appreciate the kid not wanting to put on a costume, because it's hot or itchy or whatever. But if we are just talking "I want to look good and show off and you can wear your pj's for all I care"... well, then I have a problem. Truth be told, if my daughter didn't want to wear a costume, what the Hell am I wearing one for? No costume, no trick or treating. No trick or treating, no need for me to be dressed as a slutty nurse.

I think this goes to a point I've made before (if not once, five times). Parents, you already had a shot at childhood. It's your kids' turn at bat. So you say your childhood was lousy? Well then give your kids the childhood you wished you had and sleep well in the knowledge that you have done better by the next generation. But don't steal the spotlight from them, this is their time to shine. Stay in the wings and a bit of stardom will find you - it's in your child's smile and the joy in their eyes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Which Comes First... The Child or the Ego?

As parents, it should be an impulse to consider our children and place them first in many, if not most, situations. They need us and not for very long so we should take this as a golden opportunity and not a chore.

With that said, do I have to even tell you how many parents I would love to ask "Why the Hell did you have kids?" Kids may seem to be the perfect designer accessory when creating that quintessential white picket fence family, but they're not a pair of shoes or even a purse dog... they're people! You have to play with them, teach them, talk to them, show interest in who they are. You can't just take them out of the closet for the company family picnic, in an attempt to present a vision of familial bliss. Considering the little people in your house only as "your children" and not as Tommy and Mary, is the quickest way to raise children who treat others like property, and that includes you. What comes around goes around. What an incredibly lousy example you've set.

[Now for the purposes of my blog, I use the words my daughter and my husband and my blah-blah-blah. But I can assure you, those words feel alien to me to type or speak or even think and I do it only for security reasons.]

Likewise, there are the parents on the other side of the equation. The ones that have nothing but praise for their perfect progeny - and, of course, the way they've raised them. So blinded by their own creation they can't see the immense flaws in their "perfect" children. Unfortunately neither can the children whose heads are so full of baseless compliments, they wonder at the age of 20 why no one claps and says "good job" when they remember to wash their hands after using the potty. What relationships will this child form if their only goal is to be constantly bathed in false praise?

In both cases, though seemingly on opposite sides of the equation, the children are ultimately treated like possessions born solely for the purpose of making their parents look better. How sad. Some self involved parents, now clearly defensive about what I've written, may ask me in rebuttal, "Why did you have children?" To which I am quick to state, because I couldn't wait to meet the little person who would be born of my husband and I. Maybe to right some wrongs in my own childhood. Possibly to meet the challenge of parenthood. Definitely because I knew I loved her, as herself, before she was even conceived... and you should know that that all comes from a person who in her teens and 20s thought seriously about never having children.

So who should come first - the child or the ego?
The answer is clear. It is, for the brief moment while they are children, the child. Ego has no place in parenthood. Treat your children more or less than who they are and you will have very little to brag about anyway. Treat your children as individuals with their own special personalities and be praised for your role in their upbringing each and every day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shh! It's a secret.

This is what's called "vamping". It's a musical theatre term which means "stalling".

I've got no less than a dozen posts in the works. All started but going nowhere (for more on that read my early work "As So It Begins"). So in order to throw something out into the blogosphere, I'm going to give away, free of charge, my super secret, world famous (well, in my circles at least) Pumpkin Bread recipe.

Ready?....

1)Run to your nearest Trader Joe's and buy the Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread mix.
[And when I say run, I mean run. It took them 5 weeks to finally get it in stock because the warehouse kept running out. The morning I called and got the news that it had come in the night before, I told them to put a case aside just for me. But it won't last long in the stores. It never does.]

2)Add your favorite extras to doctor the mix - dried cranberries and chocolate chips are a favorite in my house as are diced apples and pecans. Whatever you think will work with pumpkin, give it a try. I have yet to see (or taste) a combination fail.

3)Never reveal that it's a box mix. Believe me, no one would think otherwise. It's that good!

OK. Well that was short and sweet.
Check back in a day or two; hopefully I'll be able to finish something I've started.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If The Truth Shall Set Us Free, Why Do We Remain Tied To Our Facades

I know that I recently wrote that I would be writing next about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. But I've been bouncing the idea of Honesty around in my head for a few days and I'd rather talk about that first. Please indulge me.
*****
I had lunch with a wonderful friend today. Last week was her birthday and we finally were able to find time in our schedules so that I could take her to lunch.

Our conversations tend to take the normal track - catch-up on kids, work, home then wade into the discussions of current personal set-backs whether it's a car in the shop or leak in the roof. In the end though, we always wind up talking about some deep emotional or psychological issue. This time was no different. This time the topic was Honesty.

"Why is it so difficult for people to be honest about themselves to others, when being honest ultimately frees us from the work involved in putting up barriers and facades?" "Why don't people tell the truth about themselves? In doing so, you not only free yourself from hiding, but allow the other person to be more relaxed in your company because you are being open with them."


I recently posted the above questions to my Facebook page and received quite a few very insightful responses (names have all been removed):

> I do not think that it is people not being honest with themselves. I think they just don't want to come across as being weak or vulnerable to others.

> I think it is all about keeping up a facade. I ALWAYS worry about what people think of me and I think at times that can make it harder to be completely open and honest about my flaws. I think if you care too much about what people think, it is difficult to be completely open and honest. What would happen if person x knew xyz about me? Oh wait, nothing! Wow...I might be a changed person.

> I honestly think its just a learned behavior. You build a protective shell around yourself according to what has worked to 'save' you over the years. In this case, SAVE can mean many things. Save you from pain, save you from a hassle, save you from commitment, etc. Or it could be like MY situation and you just don't remember things too clearly anymore and the memories have adapted themselves to something 'comfortable'.

> Wow, Bonnie...this is a deep one! I also worry about what others think of me... but I think most women do. Of course, there are some I would share intimate details with but not everyone. Sometimes it's just too hard to keep track of it all and I don't want to be judged so it's just easier to cover it all up and pretend it doesn't exist. Although, we all have faults, right? At times I just want to ignore them myself but yes, when you find that person to share it all with it is amazing and very freeing!

> Honesty doesn't always work. Human nature doesn't lend itself easily to unbridled truth. One of the many things that separate us from the ape is our ability to temper our responses to situations. Every story or question we hear is followed by a huge chess game in our head. "If I do this then what is that outcome". It allows us to tailor our reactions to events. Some cards you play close to the vest. I'm a pretty nice guy, good Dad, lots of fun at parties; but there are some things in my life I don't want to tell people, as I think it would distort their image of who I am. These things aren't game changers but they would separate us into sections, parts if you will. Humans remarkable gift is to see the whole, combine the parts, the Germans call it Gestalt. If we begin to tell everyone everything, we might start with, 'well I like 80% of that person, but that 20% really pisses me off. That's a deal breaker.

*****

It's an interesting discussion don't you think... by not wanting to appear weak or vulnerable or flawed in someway, we're not being honest or putting ourselves out there for growth; in fact, it's exhausting keeping up the facade thereby making the problem even greater.

Let's say I have problem X. I hide that problem in a variety of ways because it's embarrassing and I'm afraid of being mocked. Now, let's say I tell just one friend about it. It's like I just exhaled and the stress in my shoulders released. And in allowing that person deeper into my life, I've opened the door to let that person do the same with something they may be struggling with. What a comfort creating that kind of relationship allows us.

There is a great deal of pressure to be somewhat flawless. Consider the point my friend made in the last post, that if people knew all our blemishes there's a chance that the 80% they like won't outweigh the 20% they don't. But do we need people like that in our lives? And isn't putting up a facade a negative anyway? Just think about anyone who has ever bragged to you about something that should make them look "shiny". Didn't you take that as a flaw? The facade may be just another layer with it's own dents in it.

So what's the answer. For me, it will be to live with honesty and integrity and be trustworthy. The kind of person who is happy in her own skin. The kind of person I would want to associate with. The kind of person I want my daughter to look up to... man, do I have some work to do.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Post-It Notes

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I took that first great leap into the blogosphere.

That first week I was brimming with ideas and things I wanted to get off my chest; enough to fill 11 posts. Whew! That was quite a week. Last week between home improvements and a sick kid, I only managed to churn out 1.

No matter. I'm back and I'm percolating with new subjects to cover and I'm itching to get started. But I've decided that it would be best to pace myself... no more than 3 posts a week. More than that is just overkill and I risk losing my "followers" - I mean, I have to assume they have other things to do besides read my rantings. Right?

My next topic - Facebook! Yikes! For better or worse, it's become an addiction for me but it's a love/hate relationship... I love the fact that I've reconnected with so many old friends; I hate the fact that it brings out the ego-maniac in the majority of it's users - that is the ones that aren't just lurking.

I'm glad I started blogging. Many (including myself on some days) would say it's a waste of time, taking away precious hours better spent in the gym. But I've always been one to put my emotional, intellectual and psychological improvement (which I believe this is) ahead of the physical - anyone looking at my double chin, muffin top, and cankles could tell you that ;-).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dust To Dust... To OCD Ridden Meltdown

Small particles freak me out!

I don't bake anything that requires me to flour a surface. Baby powder puts a kink in my neck. And the idea of snorting cocaine is so unsettling. Dusty particles that get EVERYWHERE put me into a mental state so strenuous, I have knots in my shoulders for days after.

As I type, there are construction workers in my home wreaking havoc with my psyche. I'm having a wall replaced with windows in my family room. It's a project I've been wanting to do since we moved into the house 9 years ago and it's going to be beautiful when it's done. In the meantime, I'm losing my mind!

Yesterday was phase one. The brick wall on the outside of the house had to be removed and rebuilt in the configuration of the windows. In order to do this, the mason sawed and chipped and chiseled and hammered, and with every blow, blew fine gray grout and fine red brick dust through every nook and cranny. At one point, I had to squint through the haze INSIDE my house. I would have started hyperventilating but that would have been completely counter productive. Instead, I ran upstairs to the farthest room in the house and shoved my face in a pillow. When the smoke cleared, literally, there was a fine powder over EVERYTHING. I stopped breathing altogether and just left the house. Of course, with picking up the dog from the kennel (we were away for the weekend) and taking my daughter to ballet, I didn't get home until after my husband - my husband, who doesn't care and certainly doesn't notice dust, so there he was sitting in it, eating on it, living with it.... I ran upstairs again, this time to shower off the day.

Today the job should be completed, but I'm already getting the "we've run into a snag" speech so I'm preparing myself mentally for more days of torture (which is just my way of saying, I'm researching nearby psych wards). Today, they are cutting out the inside wall which will mean drywall dust. They've draped the area so less dust will fill the house but let's be honest, dust doesn't discriminate. It spreads itself equally and freely.

I'm having chest pains.

Tomorrow is Maritza's day to clean. I think I'll ask her to start in the family room. She usually starts in the master bath, but I'm going to be in there, showering away the real - and psychological - dust of the last two days.