Virtuous Journey

I took an ethics class in the fall and one of the chapters mentioned Benjamin Franklin and his 13 virtues. He would carry around a log and cycle through the the 13 virtues each week. He would ask himself if he felt he practiced each virtue and would check them off if he did. Eventually, over time, those virtues became habit. I liked this idea very much when I was reading about it. How habits have to be practiced every day to become part of your life. We spend so much time trying to break bad habits that maybe, what we need to do is start incorporating good habits.

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I had, of course, forgotten about how much I enjoyed this idea and how I wanted to practice it myself. Then, today I was reading an article about how our kids can tell when we are distracted. We demand attention from them all the time. Are you listening? Did you hear me? Did you remember to do what I asked you to do hours ago? Yet, when our kids are telling us something that is important to them we don’t give them the same treatment. We are only half listening when they are telling us about Minecraft, Fortnite, or some Tiktok they saw. But those things are just as important to them as what we are saying. We need to listen and not just hear what our kids are saying. Not only our kids, but everyone we come in contact with. Imagine how much better the world would be if people practiced good communication skills. If people spoke and listened to each other instead of talking over each other or worse, completely ignoring each other, imagine how many issues could get resolved.

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So, with that being said, I am going to start my own set of virtues to live by. Even as I write this I am unsure if I want to try and copy Mr. Franklin by keeping a little card like the one shown below. Keeping track each week or if I want to focus on one each month. I guess I will see as I go. I liked a lot of his virtues and I think honestly, they are all good ones for people to practice, but I have my own that I want to add. Instead of 13 I am going for a modest 12. (I have a thing for even numbers) Benjamin Franklins list was: Temperance – eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. Order-let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Resolution – resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what your resolve. Frugality – make no expenses but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing. Industry -lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. Sincerity – use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. Justice – wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. Moderation – avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as your think they deserve. Cleanliness – tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habituation. Tranquility – be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Chasity – rarely use energy but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or others peace of reputation. Humility – imitate Jesus and Socrates.

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Whew what a list. This will be my list (taken from this site here )- while I love Mr. Franklin’s list, I wanted words that were more my style if that makes sense.

Acceptance, cleanliness, compassion, contentment, humility, kindness, moderation, patience, tact, wisdom, wonder and communication. (Okay I know what you are thinking, communication isn’t a virtue), well I think it is so I am going to put it in the list.

So, in what will probably be an over ambitious attempt at keeping up with blogging, I plan to catalog monthly how I did either on each virtue or the virtue of the month. I am also, since this is, at its core, a mom blog, going to try and incorporate all these into parenting. It is important to not only continue working on yourself and growing but to also instill those lessons with your children. So, who is up for a 2021 challenge of becoming more virtuous?

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Benjamin Franklin’s Virtue Card

Changing the Culture

Let’s talk about boy culture. Now, of course boys get a bad rep. “Boys will boys” is such a common phrase that we don’t even think of it anymore. Just because I am the mother one of one doesn’t mean I am expert on boys. However, I have seen a trend that has been probably going on for as long as their have been humans. Boys must act a certain way if they don’t they get labeled.

Sissy Boy.

Mama’s Boy.

Gay.

Boys have to “be tough” “Don’t cry” “Don’t hug” “Don’t share emotions”.

I see this happen a lot in TV shows and the fans of those TV shows can really go from one extreme to the other. Take two of them for examples and I will show you what I mean.

Supernatural -this is the fandom that made me ponder this whole thing. So, a background for those of you who don’t know. The show has been on for 15 years. That is 15 years of two brothers (Sam and Dean), battling all manner of evil. As the title suggests most of the evil is supernatural beings, ghost, demons, God himself…of course some of the worst evil is their own personal demons. The brothers go through hell and back and they do it together with the help of some amazing side characters. One of which is their Angel friend, Cas.

Cas is a fallen Angel disenfranchised with Heaven and God. He had a mission in the beginning but fell in love with the brothers and eventually decided to stay on Earth and fight along side them. Dean and Cas have a very close and often volatile relationship. They have fought, laughed, cried and worried about each other. They truly love each other and would die for the other (and, in fact, have). They are not in love. They love each other like brothers and treat each other as such. But, because they are nonrelated men, people think they are gay. They get pissed at the “Homophobic writers” for not making their relationship ‘canon’. Why? Because they care for each other? It is more accepting for two characters (who have shown ZERO interest in the same sex) to be in love with each other than to have two men have a deep, emotional and meaningful relationship akin to an actual brother. To me, that says something. I think it is fantastic that so many are accepting of LGBTQ+ relationships, I do, but we need to work on accepting heterosexual men having intimate nonsexual relationships.

The other show is the Walking Dead. A post apocalyptical zombie show that is WAY less about zombies and more about the relationships formed from the survivors like: Daryl and Rick. A match made in heaven. Except neither of them is gay. They love each other and would die for each other, but they are not in love. Yet, when they have meaningful conversations with each other the entire fandom is either ‘Oh my god kiss already’ or worse ‘ stop making them act all gay’. Why because they are sharing their feelings? Because they have emotions? They feel the need to confide in their best friend? “Gee that was quite the hoard we just dealt with and all my friends are dead – let’s not talk about that though -no chick flick moments”

We need to change the culture.

If we raise our sons to be “Big tough guys”, guys who don’t cry, don’t express their feelings and emotions, who are taught to suppress all that than what do you get? A bunch of locker room talk and unrealistic sense of superiority. You get people who aren’t “ruled by their emotions”. You get robots that work 60 hours a week and then drink themselves into a stupor on the weekends because they are so emotionally bankrupt that they can’t be alone with their own thoughts. We create the demons and send them out into the world and then wonder why they shoot up schools, why they cheat on their wives, why they blow up buildings or beat the shit of unarmed black people. I am not saying this is all upbringing or all because we told them to rub some dirt in it, but I am willing to bet it is some of it.

There has to be a change in the culture. We have to stop telling girls that they have to act lady like, look a certain way, be a certain way because that isn’t right either. We have to get RID of gender roles. Just throw them the fuck out. Seriously. Get rid of pink and blue, fuck gender revels. Who gives a shit if you are having a boy or a girl? Have an awesome kid how about that? If we stop making “Boy things” and “Girls things” than maybe we can eventually finally achieve equality between all the sexes. Crazy thought I know. If we stop telling boys they can’t cry and stop telling girl they can’t get dirty, than maybe we will have a change in the way the world is run. Maybe girls need to get dirty. Maybe men need to cry. Maybe what this world needs is less division of the sexes and more blending.

And hey beside raising decent people, it might actually help in other ways. Imagine a world without people throwing a party because you are pink or blue. Imagine if your parents bought you “boy toys” and “Girl toys” except they were just…gasp…toys. Imagine growing up free to express yourself however you felt comfortable doing that. Sports, art, music, whatever, without the stigma of doing it a ‘girly way’ or a ‘manly way’. Imagine what that will do for the world and the mental health of our children. Imagine a world where you can choose to be who you want to be and not because someone else chose it for you and molded and conformed you to it. Imagine having a choice from birth and not having to undo years worth of physiological damage.

Imagine a world where two men can hug each other on the street, complement each others clothes and ask about their kids. Imagine a world where woman can go to a sports bar scream about a bad play and have a beer with their girl friends. Imagine if those two things didn’t sound weird. If they were just normal because women can enjoy beer and sports and men can be proud of their children. Imagine instead of raising our kids to be ‘tough men’ and ‘pretty women’ we raised our children to be good humans.

Just imagine.

Parenting during the pandemic

I don’t write much anymore. I find that I am very busy with school, work, raising a teenager, and other duties that come up. Plus, I am not even sure what to say any more. Look around and you will find mom blogs by the thousands. Each one with their own anecdotes, advice, humor or even sadness. Where does mine fit in? Did I mention how busy I am? From 5:30am to 10pm I feel like it is non-stop go-go-go. Exercise, get the kid up, get him out the door, get ready for work, work, go home, homework with kid, homework for me, make dinner, clean up dinner, get the kid to bed, go to bed…rinse and repeat. It seems like life is just a roller coaster hell bent on hurdling you through the ride without giving you one moment to just pause and take a deep breath. Even during vacations – packing, traveling, check in, eating, sight seeing, day adventures, blah blah…it goes on and on. When you get back you feel more exhausted sometimes.

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Then something horrid happened. The world stopped. Okay not the actual world, but the people. The people stopped. We had to. For the sake ourselves, our families, our elderly, our immune compromised, for the safety and wellbeing of our health care workers, we had to stop. We stopped going to school, we stopped going to work, we stopped shopping and vacationing, we just freaking stopped. The first we few weeks were…weird. What do we do? Let’s keep things as normal as possible and keep to a schedule. Zoom meetings for work, daily agenda to keep kid active in school, bake banana bread because that is what Chrissy Teigen told us to do…83744775-2153-46C3-8C14-C8F18E490A46 …keep exercising and going for walks. Then, the work stopped too. The Zoom meetings ended. The daily phone calls with co-workers…ended.

How do you run a museum when there is no one coming in? If you are the office coordinator, how do you work without an office to coordinate. Eventually, full unemployment happened and then it was like….

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Now, each day is pretty much the same as the one before. Oh look, Tuesday! What is different about Tuesday than any other day? Not a damn thing. The things you look forward to are vastly different than what they once were. I used to look forward to that commute between work and home. It meant a few minutes of peace and quiet, maybe some gangster rap. Sometimes I would do some quick errands on my way home. You know, living the life.

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Now I look forward to other things. Gov. Cuomo’s press conferences. 04B0DEA1-CC22-4402-9008-393BC746DCEB

Birds coming to my bird feeder. The timer of the oven signaling the completion of another baked good. The dryer going off so I can switch the laundry.

Holy hell!! Is that the mail truck? Holy chicken nuggets mail has never been more exciting.

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But, all joking aside. One day is literally the same as the other one. With slight variations as to how you are going to spend your day. I have a list of tasks that I keep that allow me to fake some productivity, make me feel somewhat accomplished. But even those tasks are starting to dwindle. I am one week a way from chopping my hair off circa Spears ‘07.

Parenting is fun during this too. I have always known that my kid would do better in a smaller group setting or being homeschooled. His grades have gone from alarming to astounding during this time. (And yes he is definitely doing the work). He just now has his aunt and I tutoring on everything from Math to Social Studies. (Huge plug here for auntie and her amazing math skills. I still can’t even pronounce Pythagorean theorem, but she was able to get Cody to understand it and do well on the test). 2037E4BF-4A6E-440F-9C8A-6929416BBC7A

It is more than just homeschooling though. It is parenting during a pandemic. I am stressed out because I lost my job and I am not sure when (if ever) I am going back. Unemployment is thankfully, covering expenses for the moment, but what happens in July? My sister is freaked out because the great state of New York has determined that it doesn’t mater how much  you make or how many hours you work, it only matters how many days you work. And it doesn’t matter if you worked just one hour in that day, you are considered to have worked that day. So, since she lost her full time (read the job that paid the majority of her bills), but still maintains a part time job, she doesn’t qualify for unemployment. Ergo, major stress and frustration.  She is better off than some, and I will get to that in a second, but still, it is stressful. So two people are unemployed, there is a shortage of meat, toilet paper… flour for goodness sake, and I have fibromyalgia, migraines and anxiety. (not to mention the normal  stress that is life…then add to that the stress of wondering if today you will show symptoms, if one of your loved ones will, this pandemic is anything but a “pause”.

Then, you have your kids…

Think of this. These kids grew up during lockdowns. They grew up during the era of school shootings. Our kids are tougher than we ever were, and yet this is something no one could have prepared them for. A complete and total disruption of their entire life. No more sports, no more friends coming over, no more school, no concerts, no take out, no movies, no bowling. Nothing. Add to that stress that you are feeling from your family AND teenage hormones, and you have a bomb ready to go off at any moment. To which, my son has. One minute he is getting himself as snack and the next he is crying (literally from the couch to the pantry), or having an outburst with no preamble what so ever. I believe this could have happened without everything going on, but I also believe that this has definitely exasperated it. What is a parent to do? Except hug them and tell them that everything will be okay.

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Eventually everything will be okay. 2020 will pass and 2021 will come with a new set of things to deal with. Our kids will go back to school and we will go back to work. Eventually everything will be okay. It won’t go back to the way that it was, but it will be okay. For right now though, it is hard and it is hard for a lot of people. This isn’t a pause for some people. This isn’t a time to learn a new baking hack, or sew face masks, or learn origami, this is a time of hunger, worry, stress, pain, panic, and sadness. For others, it is a time of fear, depression, anxiety, and darkness. Over 30 million people are unemployed right now. Most people were one paycheck away from financial disaster. One. They have now missed as much as three months. Yes, the stimulus packages have helped, yes the extra 600 for unemployment has helped, but for some it hasn’t been enough. Yes, telling landlords they can’t kick out their tenants has been nice, yes the mortgage companies hauling interest has been great. But it hasn’t been enough for some. Some people are literally going hungry. Some people can’t afford to stockpile toilet paper and flour. Some people don’t have the luxury of sitting at home thinking up a new hobby. Some people are living in fear. What this pandemic has done has shed light on a huge vast divide of the haves and the have nots. celebrities are getting a lot of flack from complaining about being held ‘prisoners’ in their mansions. People are celebrating the closure of schools while others are concerned about what that means when they eventually do go back to work. Some children’s only safety, shelter and food comes from the public school system. What about those parents? What about the parents who are worse off than I am or can imagine to be? My son has two people home with him every day, he has two people helping with school work, two people bravely showing him that everything is okay. Some kids aren’t as fortunate and it is tragic. My heart breaks for them and their families.

While I am beyond thankful that my family is safe, well fed, has access to the internet for continued learning and entertainment, many families do not. For many families, this isn’t a pause but it is a break. It is break in their normal lives however fragile they were holding that together. Some people will have a very hard time coming back from this. Some people will be in debt for years because of it. Some people will not make it. This is fact that keeps me up at night.

I love that the lakes are clear, that the sky is blue, that people are spending time with their families and able to breathe for a second. I know we all wished for that. But, I am scared and trying to parent a teenager during times that unbelievable and unimaginable. I am mourning the loss of milestones that we thought he would do, moving up ceremonies, touring the high school, field trips, museum visits. I am thankful we are privileged enough to be okay staying home, that we are educated enough to help him through the rest of his school year. I am sad that he can’t spend time with his friends. I am worried about his future. I am grateful no one I know has died from this awful disease and am hopeful that no one does. I grieve for those who have lost loved ones while they watch others protest about being forced to stay home.

If this has taught us anything it is that we are all at mercy of nature. Plague doesn’t care if you are white or black, rich or poor, religious or atheist. We are all humans and we are all in this together. If you can’t get food, medical supplies, or anything else that you need to survive this, please reach out to the community organizations that have been set up. This is no time for pride. If you are doing okay and can give even a little, please find community organizations that are being set up and donate to them. Let’s show our kids kindness during this pandemic, lets show them compassion, lets keep our sense of humor and lets learn together what the new normal will be. Let’s parent during the pandemic together and together we will get through this.

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Songs of the Sasquatch

I have to preamble this by saying how much I love and appreciate my sister-in-law and my new brother-in-law. We had such a lovely time at their wedding. It was filled with laughter and love surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of the Deerfield river. I want to say that I wouldn’t have missed that for all the gold in the world. I would go again 100 times just to see them celebrate their special moment. I appreciate that they wanted their friends and family to experience the river and the outdoors because they love it so much. I, again, would re-do this weekend a million times. However, next time, I am sleeping in a 5 star hotel.

Let me tell you a little about me. I would be perfectly happy in Alaska. No, seriously. Right now (August 10th) the high in Alaska will be 70 , which is still warm. Hot even. It isn’t 90 though. The humidity will be 76% which is a far cry from the 90+ we have been seeing here. In the winter, Alaska gets down in the negatives. Know what? You can put a sweater on, you can stay inside in front of a fire, and you can invest in a down comforter and snuggle up. I am like a seal – I would be perfectly happy adding on some extra blubber and hunkering down. Me and the heat are a no go. Another tid-bit about me… I have the weakest bladder of any late 30 year old…ever…so I get up at least once a night…this makes it challenging when the bathroom in half a mile away. Not to mention trying to get my fat ass out of the tent.

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Actual footage of me trying to get in and out of my tent.

So camping isn’t really my thing, if you couldn’t tell already. Camping in the middle of the hottest summer on record is really not my thing. However, I was determined to make it awesome. I was PREPARED y’all. I read blogs, articles, wiki-how-to’s. I was going to kick camping butt.

First was the prep- I knew it was a camp wedding since January. We had tents already (for whatever reason – people insist on giving us tents…it is weird)…and sleeping bags…(same thing – we just seem to acquire them). We also only needed one air mattress  – score! Through the next few months I gathered the things we needed. First aid, sunblock, bug spray, etc. My list actually looked a little something like this:

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Finally – the big day was here. We were ready to pack the car and take off for our wild adventure in western mass.

I didn’t get a picture of the trunk which was filled to the brim. When you opened it the pillows popped out like a jack-in-the-box. Why I didn’t get a picture of the trunk is beyond me. This was the living room though.

We were off – and in really good spirits – although – poor husband had come down with a nasty virus just before we were leaving, so he wasn’t feeling good at all. He was actually feeling so poorly that he let me drive the whole way! Unheard of in the 12 years we have been traveling together.

To get off Long Island, we have to take a ferry – which can be actually nice…unless you are taking the smallest ferry in the world with “moderate” sea conditions. Dramamine was my sisters’ best friend. Cody, however, had his sea legs ready to go.

We finally get off the ferry – and head up to western Mass. Another thing about Long Island is how flat it is…Western Mass is not flat. It is GORGEOUS! There are real mountains and so much green everywhere you look, it is absolutely stunning.  We had some real fun weather driving up – torrential down pours, localized flooding… followed by these beautiful angry sky images.

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We made it to our first stop of the weekend. An adorable little inn that some of the early birds were going to stay in for the night. It was wild seeing some people I haven’t seen in literally 20 years. So much fun catching up and hanging out with the bride and groom. We had a lovely cookout with some of the best burgers I have ever tasted, a cheese and cracker spread and some delicious sides.

Our room was so cute and perfect just one thing…it um…didn’t have air conditioning. :O Which is okay – that is how people use to live right? Stick a fan in the window and it’ll be okay! Probably would have been fine if poor husband wasn’t hacking away all night. 😦

We were up early and ready to go down to the campground the next day. We had a trial run of the wedding and then it was camp set up time!

Setting up the tents was surprisingly easy. The ones people kept buying us practically set themselves up! It was hot though, so by the time we had the site up we were all sweaty and hot so we decided to cool off by the lake.

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I do mean COOL OFF…the lake was freezing. My sister described it “Ice bucket challenge cold”. It was so refreshing though after setting up the tents and everything. The only problem is apparently the river is lined with every jagged rock in all of New England. If you need a jagged, sharp, toe cutting rock, go to the Deerfield River. One take- away from the weekend…water shoes.

Finally it was time for the wedding. An absolutely beautiful, wonderful, happy and amazing wedding for two of the most beautiful, wonderful and amazing people. I cried so much that I didn’t get a good photo. My husband was in charge of the music so he didn’t either. I give credit to my sister and niece for these.

LOOK AT THAT BACKDROP! It is perfection.  I love it. And again, wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The reception was just as lovely. Hand-made centerpieces by my mother-law-in, speeches that made everyone cry…okay made me cry. A hand-carved table to put the cake on made by my father-in-law and the most beautiful cake I have ever seen. Dinner and dancing and it really was just perfect.

Still – husband wasn’t feeling well and Cody had (despite a mosquito bracelet and enough chemicals to kill a moose), been eaten alive by every insect in Mass. So we left a little early. We had time for a quick fire before bed. IMG_1125

Bed though…you never appreciate your bed until you don’t have it. Our air mattress kept deflating; the one we brought for my sister was missing its plug, so the only one who had a decent mattress was Cody. As predicted I had to pee about a million times. I am like a cocker-spaniel. I get anxious or excited and I just have to pee. For whatever reason, sleeping outside made me anxious. Peeing in the middle of the night, outside has one advantage, the stars. Oh my gosh! You never realize how much city or even town lights ruin the beautiful light show in the night sky.

I did manage to get some sleep – despite the hacking from husband (poor guy) and the wobbly air mattress. It actually cooled off enough to need the sleeping bag, something I thought for sure would be impossible.

We were all up at 5am. No way to continue pretending to sleep. I opened my tent and was…wowed. Can I please have this be my view every morning?

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The picture doesn’t do it justice, the mist coming off the mountain with the gentle flow of the Deerfield River was so peaceful that there was no way you would wake up in a bad mood. (Even if you didn’t sleep the night before.) This was the most beautiful way to wake up.

Everyone was up early despite the late evening – and we had breakfast and coffee. Unfortunately, it was time for us to pack up and leave. Husband needed a doctor and Cody needed to be as far away from nature as possible. Time only for one more quick jump in the river.

All in all it was a very lovely weekend. I can’t say how much I truly enjoyed the wedding, the union of two beautiful souls joining. I loved seeing people I haven’t seen in over 20 years, I loved spending time with the family unplugged and doing things we wouldn’t normally do.

I even have a list for the next time we go camping – little lessons we learned.

Water shoes

More bug spray than you think you need (also the non-staining kind – cause there is a difference)

More sun block than you think you need (reapply every time your breathe)

Water shoes

Hammock – maybe cot? Not an air mattress

You don’t need to bring your whole pantry – there will be food, they still have stores…save space

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Literally about having fun… it will be hot, it will be buggy, there will be sun…but have fun, remember that you are there to enjoy nature and be with you family even if you are like me, and more of an indoor girl.

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Did I mention water shoes?

A simple plea

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I think at some point every kid gets bullied by someone. I don’t know one adult who was never bullied. The extent of the bulling is another story. When it becomes so horrible that you don’t even want to walk into school. When you have anxiety about going into the lunch room. When you fear being called on in class, not because you don’t know the answer, but because you don’t want to hear the snickers. That is when it is a problem. According to a statistics, suicide is the third leading cause in death in young people. Third. Of those approximately 4,400 deaths, it is estimated that bullying victims are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-bullied children.

While this may not come as a shock to most people, and while that number may not be as devastating to some as it is to those who have been impacted by it, it is a stark reminder of how fragile our children’s minds are. We forget what it was like in high school and middle school. Heck, we forget what we did in our 20s. We look at our teens and preteens and see sullen glares, one word answers, endless amounts of Fortnite or YouTube, and forget that there minds are still learning and growing. All the while their bodies are betraying them at every turn. Acne, new body parts showing up, hair in weird places, voices changing, and all in the spotlight of their peers.

I will never in my life understand why some kids get through this phase like they walked out of a magazine and others go through every living hell puberty could line up for them.

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It is a hard time between 11 and 18…some kids mature faster than others, some want to hold on to their childhood just a bit longer. Some kids start sports, some start experimenting with theater or music. And some, just bebop along not really fitting into any one mold and they are considered weird.

There are all kinds of reasons why kids get bullied. The biggest reason is those darn cliques. There are always these little cliques though. Throughout all of high school history. You got your jocks, your theater kids, your band kids. You have your smart kids or your artistic kids.  Sometimes it is older families, the families who grew up together so their kids grow together and you have no hope of breaking into that circle. Sometimes it is social standing. Kids who vacation in Greece and have a horse, a nanny, two vacation homes and a pool. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be an underlying reason, the kids are just friends but you aren’t part of that circle and they make sure you know it.

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Sometimes it is because you joke around a lot or you are too sensitive. Sometimes its your family  – especially in small areas where your parents and their parents grew up together and they hate each other and the parents pass that hate down to their kids.

And sometimes, there is no reason. Kids are just mean. Middle school just sucks for some kids. I was one of them and it looks like my son will be one too.

It is much more frustrating from this side though. I would take a thousand insults slung my way if it would mean that my son would never hear another one. I would endure middle school and all its trials a million times, if it meant that my kid could pass through unscathed. I would walk through the gates of hell and hold Satan’s hand if it meant my kid never had to walk into the lunch room alone.

So I write this as a plea to the other parents who might read this. Whether you are in my sons district or not. Please, teach your kids empathy. Kids don’t have to be friends with everyone, they don’t have to play with everyone, but they should abide by the simple – if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. They should pick up kids who are falling and not push them down. They should value that just because a kid isn’t athletic, doesn’t mean they don’t have other talents. Just because a kid isn’t academically smart doesn’t mean they aren’t smart in other ways.

It is a tough world and it gets tougher every day. A child should feel safe in school, they should feel included. No child should be punished for being different, for not fitting into whatever mold people think they should be in.

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I know bullying is something that will continue to happen until we as a race of humans put aside our differences and live together as one, I know this. Adults bully worse then the kids, they are in the news waving signs and spewing their hate loud and clear. Our President is one of the loudest and also has the biggest platform. So I know that this doesn’t stop, this doesn’t go away, but I implore all parents to just speak with your kids. Tell them that the weird kid might be on the Tonight Show one day because they just sold out Madison Square Garden with their comedy act. Tell them that you don’t have to like them, but there is no reason to hate them. There is no reason to go out of your way to be mean to them. That goes for us adults too. Watch what you are saying on the comments, watch what you say when you are driving (guilty), watch how you react to things and how you insult people. They are picking up on that. They hear you say it and think it is okay.

Practice kindness because it is only through kindness that we will ever survive as a race.

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Statistics on bullying 

When it becomes the big things…

There is so much to worry about as a parent. Things that you worry that you are doing to your kid. Am I feeding them enough? Probably…is it the right things? Probably not.

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Link to actual video below

Are they getting enough sleep? Probably…maybe…it seems quiet in their room at least…that is something. What about their school work and grades? Should you have started tutoring in Preschool? Health? Vaccinations – do you get the HPV one? Is Chicken Pox so bad? (the answer is yes to the vaccines – they rock – can we all agree on that?). Formula feeding – did that mess him up? Should I have tried breastfeeding? Screen time? Too much – most likely – going to screw him up someday?? Future problems.

And on…and on…and on…

And those are you your problems. Your issues. Things you have done or not done in regards to raising your kid. You did everything you thought was right for you and your family, your religious or nonreligious beliefs, your gut instincts. You did what you did and you did it because you love your kid. But some day…and soon…you have to let that kid go out in the world…without you. Without your hand to hold. Without you nodding your head in encouragement. Without your voice guiding them. Without you.

Then what?

Then they are on their own, and have to rely on the early teachings you have given them. They have to make their own decisions good and bad, and you have to trust them to come to you when something bad happens.

My son is in middle school – which is BONKERS to me to even think about for too long. As I sit here and type this he is on his iPad watching other kids play video games. What the actual hell? What is better is when I ask him if he wants the video game, a lot of times he will say: “Nah, it doesn’t look fun to play”….o…kay…

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Credit to Supernatural on the CW

The point is he is still a child in so many ways. And yet, there is no denying that he is turning into a teenager. His body is changing, his thoughts, his goals, his behavior even. Sometimes my sweet little boy is staring at me and other times, it is the person who has taken over his body. Like Pod person but instead of trying to convince me that it is my son, they are just being an asshole. Yet. Still. He is only 12.

It is hard remembering 12. My first cigarette was around that age. It was disgusting. My friend had a cool older, sister who had been to Europe and as such was very into clove cigarettes, do they even make those anymore…??

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Credit to The Office

I remember fire whisky, though I can’t remember exactly what age that was. I remember getting caught shoplifting when my friend ran off with a magazine that had Eddie Furlong on the cover (so dreamy!) and leaving me in the clutches of the store manger. I remember hanging out with guys too old for me and my dad teaching a few of them a lesson. I remember failing seventh grade and barely making it to high school (where I decided to keep up my winning streak and fail freshman year too). I remember those things happening around the same time – 12-15ish. I remember having a great relationship with my old pal anorexia, I remember cutting myself, I remember friends dying of suicide. I remember Kurt Cobain dying and consoling a friend who got so depressed over it that I thought she might follow in his footsteps. First kisses, first jobs, first heartbreaks…and during these years of ups and downs, of changing bodies, of changing homerooms you are being pulled from childhood to teen to young adult. So you would think I would be ready to help my son navigate these waters? You would think any parent would be ready.  We’re not though. Because late 30s and 40s have a way of forgetting what it was like to be a teenager. No matter how much we “remember”.

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Credit Titanic

It is sobering to realize that you are not ready and that you don’t have a clue what is going. It is comforting to know that most parents are literally walking around going…what the shit is happening?!

I have a friend – we’ll call her Katie and she is mothering a very wonderful, smart, witty, funny, strong and kind little girl who happens to be a grade below Cody. Now, Cody has never had a sleepover. I don’t know. Maybe it is a boy thing. Maybe its a introvert thing, maybe the situation hasn’t come up. Who knows. He hasn’t asked and we aren’t jumping up and down begging him to do it. Okay. Now Katie’s daughter does have sleepovers, both at Katie’s house and her friends houses. I would assume that up until now, everything has gone as you would think. Girls come over, eat a bunch of pizza, watch movies, play games, gossip about boys. That is what used to do with my friends so it is the same now right?? Right?? From what I gather from Katie (and another friend who has older daughters) that is not right. Times have have changed.

Katie’s daughter went to a sleepover and something awful happened. Her daughter was offered alcohol by the parent.

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Credit to Mean Girls

Not only that, from what my friend can gather, they were subjected to a porn site, and saw god only knows what kind of depravity. Now. Two things here. 1) I have nothing against porn itself, if the parties are consensual (which you can usually find out and especially if it is porn you pay for) and over age (of course). AND if the person who is watching it realizes that it is NOT how loving relationships work. Not something a kid who is still waiting for certain body parts to show up should be expected to understand.

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Credit to Princess Diaries

2) My father and mother said – we would rather you try it here than on the streets. Fine. Good. They would NEVER have offered to a friend though. That is bullshit. No parent has the right to offer another persons child drugs or alcohol. It is disgusting that was even a thought. Especially…at …11 years old!! Jeez aren’t they still drinking apple juice?! I can’t even imagine what would be going through an adults head to offer a minor drugs or alcohol.

This problem went all the way to the principle – it got heated with parents fighting against parents and kids fighting against kids. As you can probably imagine, there was a lot of “That never happened” “Yes it did” going on. Meanwhile…my friend has had to have a conversation about porn and underage drinking with her daughter.  Not the way she wanted to either, mind you, but was forced to out of consequence.

What is a parent to do? You can’t hide your kid away in a bubble. That never ended well for the Disney princesses. You can’t tell them to never do something because it will make that something seem more exciting than it really is. With the huge opiate epidemic we have (especially where I live), it is hard to not want to keep your kid locked up. But what can you reasonably do?

Feed your kid – or you know shove smoothies down their throat.

Try to get them outside once in a while – even if its to walk to the mail box.

Listen to them. For goodness sake listen. Listen when they are babbling at 2, listen to their stories of made up worlds when they are 5. Listen to their endless stuffed animal talks when they are 7. Listen to their problems when they are 10. Listen to them when they want to speak to you when they are 13. The best thing I have ever read in regardless to raising a kid is this.

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You don’t have to feed them kale, you don’t have to sign them up for every activity, its okay if you forget to pack them their favorite snack, or can’t afford Disney. Listening and believing in your kid is the greatest parental advice I could ever give someone. I have NO IDEA what I am doing most of the time. But I listen to Cody, I listen about Fortnite, about Minecraft, Mario, about weird dreams, hair growing in weird places, I listen. Because someday he might be in a situation like my friend Katie’s daughter, and I am going to hope that he feels as comfortable talking to me about that as he does about Lamborghini’s

I am not sure if he is laughing or yawning…or internally screaming….

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Cody watching people play video games…

Also – honestly the Disney princesses man…I can’t think of one that wasn’t forced into her situation because of oppression of some sort. Moral of the story – don’t lock up your daughters.

Check out the full video of the kid who thought he was being fed poop – it is adorable!

In the blink of an eye

Everyone always says “Enjoy the little moments” or “life is short, enjoy today” or “Always tell your loved ones you love them…just in case”. Yet does anyone really believe that life is short? Does anyone really believe that today might be the last day you see someone?

We spend so much of our time waiting for the weekend, waiting for a vacation, waiting for the end of the work day. Worrying about bills, wondering about what to make for dinner,  complaining about weather and scrolling through social media like zombies. We complain about everything. Our weight, our hair, our cars, our spouses, our lives and yet in a flash of a second, in a moment quicker than a heartbeat, those complaints, those worries, those what ifs can be erased left crumbling on the pavement.

My husband was in a motorcycle accident. Less than five minutes from home, less than three miles, a drive he takes everyday. In the blink of an eye, with his mind on dinner, the warmth of the house, the smiles of his family, a deer ran out in front of him and caused him to break hard and thus crash. In flash of metal on pavement, his life was in the hands of the safety equipment he thankfully wore. In a thumping heartbeat of thankfulness he got up, got the bike going, got home, only to discover that his injuries were worse than he originally thought.

At home, in between bites of pasta, between judging on the baking show we were watching, he walks in, and the night is altered from its original plan. To the hospital in less time than it takes to take a shower we were admitted with a team of doctors surrounding my husband oohing and awwing at the latest trama to grace their halls. Bandages flying, IV’s inserted, people coming in, x-rays ordered, all the while I sat in a chair fighting the urge to throw up, fighting the urge to cry. Wondering how life can go around meandering from day to day and suddendly derail in the blink of an eye. How can you wake up, go to work, go home, and not go to bed that night? It is too much for the human brain to handle. People go to church expecting to go home to a nice Sunday dinner that never gets cooked, people go to school expecting to go to the football game that is never played, people go to concerts expecting to fight traffic on the way out only to never step foot in their car again. Tragity happens daily, accients happend hourly, people die and life goes on all the time.

Birthday wishes

 

Usually it is the birthday boy (or girl) who gets to have all the birthday wishes. But I was thinking on my way to work that I might have earned the right to make a few of my own. After all, I am a mother, and that has to count for something right? When I sat down and started a list of all my wishes for Cody I started thinking of that song that was popular twenty years ago…well maybe not that long. I remember it coming out when my sister was graduating high school and bawling my eyes out. (listening to it now as a parent is WAY WORSE! DON’T DO IT!) The song is I hope you Dance by Lee Ann Womack. Just grab a box of tissues and prepare to put your waterproof mascara to the test – best advice for that song. Right up there with that awful Butterfly Kisses Song. What are these people thinking?!

Anyway – my list is a tad a mushy, which is why I started thinking of that song, but there are some fun wishes as well. Every parent wants the very best for their kid, every parent wants their kid to be happy. Here are a few more wishes I have for Cody:

I wish…

That you always remain kind and compassionate.

That you never doubt yourself or your self-worth.

That you retain a little childhood wonder – never stop seeing the world for beauty that it is and can be.

That eventually you will stop finding your penis so damn fascinating.

That you call your mom once in a while, just to say hi.

That you continue to love reading, for the greatest joy can often be found in those pages.

That you keep Mr. Blue – even in a box, stored away in a closet somewhere. I just hope he gets passed down.

That fart jokes stop being funny.

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That you trust yourself to make the right decisions. Even if they don’t end up the way you expected.

That you are never afraid to walk down the path of least resistance. Sometimes that path is the greatest adventure.

That you embrace adventure. Go for a walk, travel, fall in love, face your fears.

That you take pictures. Pictures of loved ones, sunsets and rises, yourself, your life.

That you remain humble.

That you don’t put your life’s value in money. Money, I promise you, will not make you happy.

That you continue to enjoy the beach and appreciate it as you do now.

That your butt stops being the focal point of all your poses.

That you always remember to say thank you and pay it forward.

That you laugh often and hard  never let anyone steal your laughter.

That you eventually learn to love school and learning. Education is a wonderful gift and life long learning is such an amazing privilege.

That you take a moment each day and find something to be grateful for.

That someday you will be able to name all the vegetables in the market and like at least…five of them…three?? Try one that isn’t blended into a smoothie.

That you remember no matter how old you get, how moody you become, how far you go, how many friends or partners you have, I loved you first and I love you always. I will always be right by your side cheering you on, lifting you up, and watching you fly.

There are more wishes – but that is a pretty good start.

I wish a very Happy Birthday to the most wonderful 12 year old boy!!

The Evolution of the bookshelf

I was looking at Cody’s bookcase while he was getting ready for bed and I thought about the evolution of his bookcase. It started with board books, those soft touch and feel ones. A lot of Sandra Boynton books, Snuggle Puppy, Dinosaur Dance, Barnyard Dance, The going to bed book. Pat the Bunny and Winnie-the-Pooh. Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are. Graduating to Dr. Seuss books, and other picture books like, Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus, and Officer Bucket and Gloria, Llama, Llama books, The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, Rainbow Fish, If you give a mouse a cookie, Curious George, Berenstain bears books, and oh my, so so so many others.

Then it was the Weird School series, Diary of Wimpy kid series, and those sort of early chapter books. Now it is Harry Potter (thank goodness), and the Percy Jackson Series. He has science books, and books about coding. He recently cleaned his bookshelf and I was touched to see that he left some of his old picture books, Goodnight Moon made the cut, as did Where the Wild Things are. I almost cried and wanted to sit and hold his little body against mine as we “Roared our terrible roars and gnashed our terrible teeth.”

I have been avid reader my whole life. Reading to me was an escape, it was was grand adventures to far off places. I read the Babysitters Club Series, the Boxcar Children Series, Scary Stories to tell in the dark, A Wrinkle in Time. Obviously, eventually graduating to more complex books before finding my love for horror and science fiction. When Cody was a baby he already had books, I wanted him to be surrounded by them and hoped that he would be just as crazy about reading that his father and I were. So far, (despite the mandated school reading logs…), he does like reading, but since there are more things to do now that he isn’t limited to just 10 channels, 4 of them being the news, it is harder for him to choose reading. When he does, my heart is so happy. When I see him making faces or hear him laugh, I know he is really into the book.

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I often think that the moment I knew by husband was “the one” was when he moved in a brought his books. Two bookshelves filled with books. It was beautiful.

Of course, I feel like my thoughts always go to a dark place and I get sad for the kids who don’t have a bookshelf. I get sad for the kids who aren’t encouraged to read. According to a study, 14% of American adults can’t read (that is about 32 Million People). That is a lot of people. In addition to that, an estimated 30 million adults can’t read above a 5th grade level. 30 Million. Furthermore, 63 Million people can’t read above a 7th grade level. It is truly baffling to me that people can’t understand the New York Times, aren’t able to read street signs, or menus. There are people who can’t read this blog.

There are ways to help, one of them being obvious, read to your kids. Get them involved with reading early and make it a routine to read to them each night. Donate gently used children books to churches and libraries that offer used book sales. Donate to charity organizations like, Reach out and Read, that help support low income families literacy.

Be thankful you can read. Thank a teacher, thank a parent, thank a friend. I am always forever grateful to a friend of mine who I adored when I was in middle school – he said the most beautiful thing about a woman is thirst for knowledge and a love for reading. I haven’t stopped learning or reading since.

Links to the above books – a few more that I have read to Cody and encourage you to read to your kids:

Sandra Boynton
Berenstain Bears
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Where the Wild Things Are
Winnie-the-Pooh
Dr. Seuss 
Goodnight Moon
If you give a mouse a cookie
Officer Buckle and Gloria 
Curious George 
Harry Potter
Percy Jackson 
The Weird School 
Big Nate
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 
Bob and Otto
Buddha at Bedtime 
The Who books…who was, who is, what is…these are great even for adults.

Also – Libraries are free. All you have to do is show proof of residency in the town you are in. Most (if not all) libraries have inter-library loans. So if they don’t have a book you desperately need to read, they can get it for you. Support your local library. They are still relevant, still amazing, and still vital to the communities they serve.

Rogers Memorial Library 

 

 

 

Twist and turns of fate

When I was little I went to a very small school, in a very small town, where everyone knew everyone else. Still, there are people I graduated with that I barely said four words to. Even though my husband and I went to the same high school, he was a Sea Road kid and I was a Consolidated kid (those were our elementary schools). In case anyone asks, Consolidated was the coolest…moving on…

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Even though we were a year apart I swear we never crossed paths. He says he remembers me, but I had my head down and my focus on getting out. I had a few close friends, and they were my entire world for the four years in high school. I never went to parties, I never knew where the cool places to hang out were, I never played sports or joined any clubs. I am not lying when I say that putting the school in the review mirror of my 86 Ford Escort was the happiest day. After school, while all my friends were going off to college, like you do, I decided to join the work force early. I didn’t stay in touch with anyone from high school, not any of the people I used to hang out with. Not by choice, but just life…I guess…Therefore, I never hung out with people from school. I never went to reunions, never met up at bars or beach nights. I had made older friends and did older things…like going to yard sales, karaoke, bingo. (no I am not kidding).  I finally met my husband only through a friend at work. I had no recollection of him in school, I never ran into him (to my knowledge) at any bars or stores or anything. The first time I fully laid eyes on him was him standing awkwardly to the side as my friend and I hugged and she then introduced me. The rest is boring and history- we got married, had a baby and here we are.

One of the things I gained from our union was another sister. Even though I didn’t see her often (she was busy kicking butt in Vet school), I loved our time together. She is a very kind, calm, nurturing soul. She is funny and smart and courageous (even if she doesn’t think so).

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When she announced that she was dating this wonderful guy and then mentioned his name, I was shocked. I knew him! Not only did I know him, I have known him basically my entire life. He was a Consolidated kid! We learned to share together, learned to write our names together. When we graduated high school, we were near each other in line. We never ran with the same circle, but he was always kind to me when others weren’t. He is a kind, nurturing soul. He is funny and smart and adventurous. A perfect match for my sister-in-law.

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The funny part about the way fate played into their lives is even better than Cy and I. She went to an alternative high school that he later taught in. They both went to the same University (in Hawaii of all places!), he was a senior when she was a freshman. When they met the discovered all these times that their worlds circled each other like a butterfly almost touching down on a flower before passing on. It wasn’t the right time for them, but when it was the right time, they came together and it was wonderful.

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Now I get to watch them get married and I am so beyond happy that fate brought them together. I can’t think of a better brother-in-law and I can’t imagine another person for my sister-in-law. They complement each other so nicely, they are so happy together (they can even be in a car together and not want to jump out!). They love to travel, camp, and explore. They love finding cute local places to eat and drink.

It is funny how life works. If you had told 7 year old me, that the little kid playing in the playground with his friends would someday be my brother-in-law I would have giggled and said – no way. Now, I can’t image it being any other way.

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I don’t know who the kid in the circle is – nor do I know why he is circled – not my photo! courtesy of my future brother-in-law!