Monday, December 31, 2012

Webster…Where Life Is Worth Living- Lisa Naze

Written on the sign as you enter town it says “Webster…Where Life is Worth Living.”  It is a town in upstate NY that runs along Lake Ontario, just outside of Rochester, NY.  It is home to Charlie Reidel’s, where you can get a Charlie burger and order “hots”, red or white.  After proms students can be seen trolling the aisles of Wegman’s and sitting on the beach at Webster Park.  It was a place I called home for most of my life and where I graduated from high school. On December 24th, Webster became yet another town victim to another gruesome act of violence.  A nation still recovering from the brutality of the violence in Newtown, another bout of senseless rampage filled the news.

As a nation, we are all affected by the tragedy in Newtown.  This senseless act of violence particularly strikes a nerve with parents and teachers alike.  Just like other parents, I have felt a certain sense of transference when thinking about the events that transpired.  I think of sending my own kids off to school, their teachers preparing for the start of another school day, my children walking the halls on their way to a special and lunch.  This town is only 2.5 hours away from Leominster, a town that could have very well been any town in America.  For most, if not all of us, it hit very close to home.  This latest tragedy in Webster has hit far closer to home for me.

Not much different in population than the city of Leominster, Webster is a town. The West Webster Fire Department is run by volunteers.  Growing up, many of my friends had relatives and friends that volunteered for the fire department.  Driving through town on any given night, it was not unusual to see a car with a flashing light pull up behind you.  You knew when you saw a flashing light on an unmarked car it was a volunteer heading to a fire and you pulled over to the side to let them pass.  They used their own vehicles and their own time, often leaving their jobs to tend to the calls.  My mother donated to them every year.  On more than one occasion their trucks graced our driveway.  They were there within minutes and always friendly.  A gas smell in the basement and teenagers trying to make popcorn that left a pan with oil on the stove too long.  Fortunately, my cousin had the good sense to throw the lid on the pan before following me running out the door.  The fire station and volunteers were the pride of the town not to mention the cause of the biggest social event of the year, the Webster Fireman’s carnival.  That was where you went to be seen.

On the morning of December 24th, I checked Facebook like I usually do.  Facebook was exploding with heart felt sentiments and disbelief from old high school classmates that were sharing the news.  William Spengler, an ex-convict, had set a fire trap and shot firemen as they arrived on the scene to do their jobs.  Killed by the gunfire was Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka.  Two other firefighters were struck and seriously injured; they are now recovering in the hospital.  I quickly ran to my year book, and although I didn’t know Mike, he graduated in the class behind mine.  Tomasz was Mike’s friend’s son and Mike was also his mentor.  I was in disbelief of the events, something like this couldn’t be happening in my home town.

No one can believe these events will happen in places you know, they happen in far off places you’ve never visited.  But they do.  They happen in towns just like ours, to people just like us.  And these events keep happening like our 100 year ice storms that seem to happen every 6 months.  And all of us struggle to make sense of it.  But the truth is you can’t think rationally about the irrational.  We want to do something, anything, so we send teddy bears, stand vigil, think about the lives lost in a moment of silence.  We debate gun control, discuss articles written about mental illness, debate healthcare, debate prison sentences and we ask for more safety in our communities.  But we still feel helpless.

We want a quick fix.  Some sort of solution that will make this madness stop.  I for one don’t know if there is any one answer.  The desensitization to violence, to people being human, has become so pervasive in our society.  And I ask myself, what can I do?  I know I can’t make large gestures, but small acts made by many can speak volumes.  I can lead my children and my students by example by being polite and kind to people.  I can be more thoughtful and open in discussion about the video games my kids are playing.  I can lobby to my congressmen about laws I think are important and I can cast my vote.  I will not live my life in fear.  I can be more aware and not turn a blind eye.  And most importantly, I won’t forget.  People are resilient and the towns will rebuild in every sense of the word.  The fire fighters are still on duty, the children of Newtown will go back to school.  But it’s after some time when we get back to the mundane details of life that we often forget about these communities in the time when they need us the most.  

Several years ago, a plane crashed at the end of our street.  A father and daughter on board died.  It took several months, maybe even years before everyone on the street didn’t catch their breath and pause when a plane flew overhead.  The initial trauma faded but we never forgot.  Our recovery and what we’ve learned about these events make us stronger.  Our perseverance, strength and resolve to make this world a better place is what will pay tribute to the lives lost.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vice Grip

My heart feels as if it’s in a vice grip.  My stomach is in knots and I feel nauseous.  My head aches and throbs.  My eyes are washed out, blurry and puffy.  I wake up nightly every hour with feelings of anxiety and sadness.  I know I will never be the same after Friday, December 14th, 2012.  Chances are, neither will you.
All around me is NOISE. 
Chatter.  Yelling.  Sadness.  Tears.  More chatter and more arguments.
Some are screaming, Ban the guns!”
Others are chanting, Help our mentally ill!”
Fingers of blame are flying incessantly, like a pack of mosquitos on an overly warm summer night.  Words of ill-intent are dive-bombing everything from a cold-blooded killer’s mother, to national funding (or lack thereof), to the purported latency of gun ownership and the very words of our Constitution.
The quagmire of human emotions has been deeply uprooted from our very core, by a creature capable of great evil.  The circumstances surrounding this horrific event remain undetermined and at best, a multitude of theories smooshed together to try and make some sense as to the why(s).  Sometimes, however, there are no explanations and any of the proffered reasons of blame do not fit into the puzzle.
The only way I can turn the noise off, albeit momentarily, is to snuggle into my little four year old love bunch.   My ears hear the giggles emerging from her innards as I rub my face into her belly, into her neck, and as I “Eskimo Kiss” her nose with my nose.  The crushing vice grip around my ticker loosens every so slightly with every warm teeny breath my littlest blows on me.  My body begins to overflow and surge with her magic and innocent life force. 
I cry a-g-a-i-n, for each and every child lost on that dreadful day and for every adult who died trying to protect these little youngsters; my heart continues to break into another fragmented and jaded piece.  How can there be such evil in our world?  What has happened to our civilization?  What can we do to STOP this?
(Shhhhhhhhhh, please.  No noise.)
I know countless others who feel this way:  broken-hearted, utterly sad, in shock and disbelief that someone could commit such an incorrigible act on sacred school ground.  Despite being a neighboring state from where this badness occurred, it hit home for all of us – smack dab in the middle of our chests. 
I have hugged each of my children at least twenty times over each day since Friday.  “I love you” has escaped my lips more than just at the morning drop-off and at bedtime.  
I have gone and read the twenty names of Newtown’s children daily.  I weep for their parents.  I weep for their community.  I weep for our nation.
However, I am confident that my children remain safe at school.  I remain assured that goodness will prevail and it will outweigh the badness in the world.  I believe in the power of love. 
With love, we will take the time to heal, to rise up and support one another with supreme humanity. The power of love in the lives of twenty-six souls will carry on, deeply embedded in our core and emblazoned in our memory forever.  

Never forget.  12-14-12


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Barf on the Shelf

I was at kickboxing class last night when the mom in front of me spontaneously broke intro a lyrical and arrogant soliloquy about how amazing she is with her Elf on the Shelf. Her long story, which commanded every one's attention and delayed the start of my fitness class by a crucial 3 minutes, actually ended with a curtsy. A freaking curtsy! Because her Elf made a mess and she made her kids help clean it up and therefore she was not only an awesome mom teaching her kids important lessons about cleaning up messes but she also wins the Elf on the Shelf mommy wars.

And it reminded me of this blog post by Jen at People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Yes, that is the title of her blog and it makes me love her, because I too want to punch Over-Achieving Elf on the Shelf mommies in the throat.

If you haven't read it -- RUN, don't walk -- over to her blog.

It came to my attention recently that not only do I suck at creating Christmas magic with my own kids, apparently I ruin it for other peoples' kids too.

Friend: You suck. Your daughter told my daughter that you told her that the elf isn't moving by himself -- that the parents do it.
Me: Yeah sorry about that, but they do. It doesn't move on its own.
Friend: I fucking know that.
Me: Well now your kids know it too.

But then, when I went home and had a second to think about it, I felt kind of bad. Just because I am a pragmatic and simple woman doesn't mean I need to ruin peoples' Christmas. So, friend, if you are out there reading this, I have been feeling kind of sorry.

But it doesn't make me want to punch that mommy in front of me in kickboxing class any less. It makes me want to punch her more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Just Never Thought Those Words Could Be a Lie

I started with these words:
I want you to know that you are safe.

Sitting on my daughter's bed with her door closed I talked to her about fire drills and lockdown drills. I told her how her school practiced these things because sometimes, so very rarely, but sometimes a school somewhere will have to deal with a real fire or a real situation when the children may not be safe.

I told her how some people are the kind of sick that they can't make good judgement calls. They can't tell real life from fiction. They can't handle their anger or their imaginations or their fears and they do a terrible, terrible thing. That happened Friday in a school in Connecticut.

I told her that he was dead now, too, and he can't hurt anyone else. I told her that the reason I was crying was because I was sad that there are mommies and daddies who awoke that morning without their little Brendans so she could understand what the loss of those lives mean in relation to her. 

I told her I was not crying because I didn't feel she was safe or because I was scared. 

I told her I was not scared. 

I told her I knew we were safe. I was not going to be honest about that with her and I am comfortable with that decision. All she needed to know beyond what had happened and what other kids would talk about, was that she was going to be just fine because I said so. She would believe me at least for now.

Then she began to cry, too. I asked her if she was crying because she was frightened. She nodded, yes, and the big tears dropped on her blanket as she moved her head. I asked her if she was crying because she was sad. She nodded again and her Pajamas darkened with the drops. I said that those were feelings that made sense. I asked her if she had other feelings, too, and could see her inwardly ask herself that, and then she shook her head no.

I told her the reason I shared this terrible story I wished I never had to ever share was because children talk about what they hear. 

I told her that she could not share this with a child. That she could talk to me and dad and teachers and the nurse and the principal- any adult she feels comfortable with, she can share this, but not with the children of her class nor with her brother and sister. 

I told her she was older and knew things that the younger kids should not, not that I felt it was fair she should know this. It was just like when we talked puberty- other moms and dads share that information with their kids when they are ready and it was not right for someone else to do that. 

I also told her that if other children talked about it she could say she had heard the news, but that there really wasn't any reason for her to say any more about it other than how she felt.

I told her I loved her and I hugged her and I hugged her again and told her, again, that I loved her. 

I told her I could tell she was in a safe school and a safe environment and that I was so happy about that. 

I told her that the Head of the schools even emailed us all to remind us how safe we are and she nodded at that because he was the man in charge and he felt good about it all.

My husband and I looked at each other with zombie eyes. We held our children more and we put our Kindergartener on our laps way more than usual as he laughed and drew pictures and breathed life.

My former First Grade assistant teacher and friend emailed me. We had been out of touch for a while, but this horrendous day threw us back together sharing a memory of working through 9/11. I don't know if that makes sense. But I felt that day's fear all around me and then she emailed me to say the same thing and I knew it made sense. The need to keep calm and shepherd children. But I cannot fathom doing that while hearing gunshots repeatedly in the next room. For the work day, we could just lower the shade to keep out the picture, close the window to keep out the smell, keep our faces clear as we handed the children to their parents as they made their way to the school.

But, I digress.

I wonder when her questions will start? 
I wonder what they will be? 
I can only hope I will have the right words. I will keep telling her that she is safe. 
I just never thought those words could be a lie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Spend Your Sunlight

If nothing else, the recent fire in Leominster and the horrible events in Connecticut show how critical it is that we make the most of our time with our loved ones.  With these events in mind, I found myself watching this video, which features a friend of mine. Jennifer Argenti surfing on the California coast.

The message of this beautiful song is repeated often in its chorus: "you've got to spend your sunlight wisely".   Meaning, make the most of every moment - make each day as fulfilling and meaningful as you can.  Both the message and the song have a special significance for me.

I went to college with Jennifer.  Not only is she a shortboard surfing champion, she is a talented and well respected musician who travels the world playing with various artists.  She's actually the violinist responsible for the haunting violin tracks throughout the song.  She's played with Willie Nelson,  Dishwallah, Jeanne Mas, Laura Roppe, Danny B. Harvey and, of course, Micah Brown, the NPR and KROQ featured singer-songwriter that wrote and performed this song.

As if that wasn't enough, Jenn recently started running triathlons as well.  She is a vegan, and is currently sponsored in her athletic endeavors by Crush Sunglasses/Kreed Eyes...  She even has her picture on the little tag attached to their sunglasses.  She's my age, but looks like a 25 year old supermodel.  I'd be jealous, but she's also one of the sweetest, most sincere people I've ever known.

I guess you could say that Jennifer spends her sunlight wisely.  In fact, when I first got back in touch with her on Facebook, my initial thought was that her professional life sounds like the career path described by a little kid...  "When I grow up, I'm going to be a surfer, and a violinist...."  Not all that far apart from my friend's daughter's dolphin trainer-pediatrician-astronaut ambitions.

When I knew Jennifer in college, she was a very nice, pretty, exuberant girl.  A talented musician, yes, but if she had any super-athlete tendencies, they weren't obvious to me...  Then again, we were both going to a "serious" music school.  You know, Bach, Beethoven - some modern stuff by composers I can't remember now (I switched majors and schools my sophomore year, so it's all a dim memory) There was a jazz band, but as far as I knew, there were no violins in it.   And the music school was in Ohio.  No big waves there, that I knew of.  So, while I had no doubt Jennifer would do well in life, her transformation from Ohio classical musician to super cool surfer/violinist was a bit of a surprise.

I'm not sure how much this has to do with her success these past few years, but Jennifer became a vegan 17 years ago.  And she says that since giving up eating animal products (fish, meat, eggs and dairy), she's felt incredible - clearer headed and full of energy.  Obviously, she has plenty of energy - what with the triathlon training, surfing and all...

For me, watching her in this video was a clarification, a confirmation, of what I want.  I want THAT...  Not to be a surfer or a violinist, (although it would be very cool) but to have the energy and clarity of mind to make the most of every second of my day.  And if she can do it, why not me?   I can at least TRY anyway...

So far, the eliminating sweets and sodas from my diet has been a success.  I feel a LOT better.  I've actually enjoyed making Christmas cookies this year - it's usually amounts to agony of overeating and feeling utterly gross.  But I still have a lot less energy and stamina than I'd like.   So, on the off chance that it'll help, I've eliminated meat from my diet as well.

What the heck - in for a penny, in for a pound, right?  And it certainly can't hurt to eat mostly fruit, raw veggies and whole grains.  For protein, I've been having lentils, hummus, cheese and smart balance peanut butter.   It's been 3 days now, and so far, so good.  No cravings, no angst, no problem.  It sure beats the diet coke and cookies "diet" that I usually indulge in this time if year.

I'll let you know if the clarity and super-athlete tendencies start to develop.  Or maybe you'll hear about me in the news someday, when I win my first Ironman Triathlon...  Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Like everyone else, I was horrified to hear of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  So senseless.  So sad.  In contrast, the lifestyle changes I'm making may seem trivial.  But they're not.  And neither are yours, if you have something in your life that you would like to improve upon.  What you do every moment of every day matters tremendously to those around you.  Because sometimes, life is short.  And it is always unpredictable.

So, here's wishing you the good health and energy to spend your sunlight wisely this holiday season.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2012

To my kids on a day like today

Hi kids. Me again, a little love letter from mom.

You want to know why I am crying. You want to know why my eyes are red and swollen shut, and you also want to know where your afterschool snack is and why I keep staring off into space. You may have some questions about why I squeezed you so tight today when you came running off the bus, but that happens much more often than the red and swollen eyes.

I wish I had the words to tell you, but I don't even really want you to understand. There are some very bad people in the world and I don't want you to know about them.

I want you to keep so much light and love in your hearts and I am afraid that if you know about  them, you will lose it. You will become sad and jaded and mistrustful and scared. I have worked so hard to build your indpendence.

Just yesterday I let you walk the whole 2 blocks home from the dentist by yourselves, so proud and nervous of the accomplishment. Today, the universe seems to be telling me to never let you out of my sight. Where the hell do we go from here?

The only channel we will watch on TV today -- or maybe for the next year -- is a music station. I will not let you see the very thing that made me collapse on the kitchen floor today, the sobs escaping from me while I tried to regain my breath. The pictures of little girls -- just like you -- as they left their school in a single file line. The images I quickly shut out of my mind of what was not shown.

Why am I crying? I will probably lie to you today. I will make your snack and keep my back turned, I will sneak into the bathroom to cry from time to time.

We will have to talk about this another time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Many of you know about  my school girl crush on Maroon 5's front man, Adam Levine.  He's hot.  He's everything my husband is not (i.e. covered in tattoos, 6 feet tall, wears skinny jeans, rarely keeps clean-shaven and sings to make my heart skip a beat)!  He's just a fantasy, I get it. 
However, putting my googly eyes and tingles aside.......Adam and his bandmates come along and do this.....Daylight
This fan-made video will wrap you up and snuggle you in; like so many of our previous Confession of a Curvy Girl posts - with real life confessions of insecurities, heartache, love and more. 
Please watch the clip; I promise you it will make you feel good and inspired.  The world can be a better place - starting with you and me.
Thank you, Adam and Maroon 5. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Foodie Wednesday :: Hanukkah Edition

Like every non-Jewish woman who marries into a Jewish family, I am pretty sure my mother-in-law hates me.
Not in an aggressive do-mean-spirited-things kind of way. More in a make-subtle-comments-for-decades-until-you-want-to-strangle-me-because-no-matter-how-much-you-do-you-will-never-be-good-enough-for-my-perfect-son kind of way. So that's been a barrel of monkeys for the past 15 years.
Because of this fact -- and perhaps in direct spite of this fact -- I do my best to bring a little bit of my hubby's ethnic heritage into my household...and believe me, if we left it to him to lead the charge we would have zero Jewish traditions in this house. Does his mother appreciate my effort? Of course not! But the beauty of his nonchalance is that I get to pick and choose the ones I like.
And I like latkes.
Like, a lot. They are goddam delicious and don't let anyone tell you differently. They even passed the preschooler test -- each year I make them with my classroom of 3 year olds and they please even the pickiest of picky eaters.
So while there is dust on our menorrah and our Christmas tree is shiny and bright, the potatoes and onions are plentiful in my kitchen. Because even though my mother-in-law would do things quite differently as far as the Jewish education of her grandkids, I rule the roost around these parts and I like latkes.

Wash, peel and cut 3 Idaho baking potatoes
Grate them, along with 1 large white onion, and drain mixture in a colander
Mix with 1 beaten egg, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1 T. flour and 1 t. salt plus a dash of pepper
Place 2 T. of the mixture in hot oil in a skillet -- flatten with a fork, flipping when brown and crisp
Drain on paper towels, and serve fresh and piping hot with sour cream and applesauce!

The Weaving of Traditions

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, 
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

I am trying here. Really, really trying. Tearing up when I read these words from The Grinch to my kids. Much like the way we tell them size, looks, money doesn't matter- it is the spirit within them that does- so there lies Christmas. With it's size, importance of right gifts, insurance that all are happy and completely bathed in the holiday. 

In the heart of Christmas is religion for some. Once upon a time it had that draw for me and it remains the time of year when I miss going to church. But what has always been the true heart of it for me has been tradition. I remember the details of Christmas past with my family while growing up in NY. Better- rituals would be the word. I long for them now as an almost 40 year old, feeling young and worrisome because I can't have those traditions anymore. And nor should I. It is time to make my own. 

And though I DO stress about who is getting what and do I have enough and did I bake enough and will I get that picture done in time to get the Christmas card out and will I really make it to the Post Office this week??? I stress/obsess the most about the traditions.  Because though I do remember getting my Cabbage Patch doll from Santa and I do remember my first piece of grown up jewelry having slivers of diamonds from Dad, what I remember the most is the trimming of the tree. 

The setting out of decorations.

The putting tinsel on the tree Christmas Eve as my mom handed us small clumps of the stuff (a tradition starting out as managing 5 small kids and friggin' tinsel! and developing into the ritual of the night). 

Our stockings always went up Christmas Eve, and came down in the night, filled with goodies, and placed at the spot where we were to set up camp in the living room to open presents. 

Stockings before breakfast, presents after. 

My brother,Terence, handing out the presents and opening his along the way which gave a nice pause to the FRANTIC NEED TO RIP AND TEAR. 

The noise. (The noise, noise, noise, noise...) The sounds of us calling "Mom! Look! Mom!!!" even at the age when we knew she knew what Santa gave us, but she had to see us react and enjoy what we received. 

Watching Mom opening up her usuals: new oven mitts, a new timer (every few years), new spatula, a bottle of Chanel 19 (oh, the smell makes me warm and anxious to see her face) a turkey baster or oven thermometer. 

I love it. I remember and I feel small and warm and far away. And then I come back to myself and wonder- have I given my kids enough of this?

I think I have. 

I screwed myself when it comes to wrapping gifts- a huge focus on how to present gifts. In the early years I used to give each child their own paper so they knew visually what was theirs and stopped the mistaken opening of another child's gifts and the follow up wails. Then my husband weighed in on learning the whole Santa deal when he found "Santa's wrapping paper" in his own basement. Should I burn the leftover paper? Would they remember if I use that paper on gifts from me 365 days later. Together we said "Evelyn would". And one year I stopped the separation of wrapping paper and one noticed and questioned. ARRGH!!!! I don't even know my approach for this year.

But other than that shaky ground, We have it down.

We chop down our own tree- a Rob's side tradition. We bring cocoa and cookies. 

The kids decorate the tree. 

We then have to turn off the lights, turn on the tree and hold hands and sing- a Colleen tradition started when she was 4 that we kept. (My guess inspired by the Whos down in Whoville.)

The stockings go up well before Christmas Eve (which kills meeeeeeee but I move on) but I set up their camps with the filled stockings when they are asleep Christmas Eve. 

I am trying to get them to do the stockings-breakfast-presents routine as it draws out the fun that starts at an ungodly hour. I think I got my way last year and intend to get it again this year.

There is a lovely, bittersweet, difference this year. Many of the decorations that are seared into my memories from growing up are now in my home. They were handed over, much like a torch, by my mom. My children have played with them and placed them around the things they have been growing up with so far. 

My childhood is being woven into their own. I feel it in my chest when I look. It is beautiful. It comes from a great change that makes me feel wistful, but it is a true part of life. 

I have a box of some of the decorations set to go to one brother who can't be here for Christmas. I have told my other brothers to take what decorations and ornaments of our childhood they would like as they leave my house after our celebration so they can add it to their home. I like to think some day these childhood decorations that belonged to my parents, my decorations, and my adult children's decorations will all come together this time of year. The weaving of traditions and sentimental visuals continuing on long past a time I will ever know.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Colors of the World

Color does not matter, or does it?

We are lucky to live in a world where color is abundant; everywhere we look the multiple hues of the rainbow reflect in our eyes.  Our words describe the latest colors of our living rooms from shades of nature:  Grand Canyon earthy tones; ocean blues; the greens of the forest pines; and the yellows of the sunshine.  Picking out something as simple as shoes becomes more than a couple of selections – no longer black, grey or brown; we select from darkest black to charcoal black to heather grey to coffee bean brown or even chocolate.
As our choices in the color palette have grown, one thing remains relatively the same:  we tend to be drawn to the colors that most attract us.  We all have personal tastes and with the umpteen choices in the color of brown, we get to pick and choose what unique color makes us happy or suits us best.

Hmmmm.  Read my last line in the preceding paragraph:  we get to pick and choose what unique color makes us happy or suits us best.  I am talking about colors, right?  Not people?  Okay, sure you say, we get to pick and choose what unique people make us happy and suit us best.  Right?  Of course!
Now add color to the mix.  As in color of people.  Yes, you read that correctly. 

I am infuriated.  I am sick.  Why in the name of potato sacks am I writing about the color of people…PEOPLE FOR GOSH FRICKIN SAKE…….in the modern year of 2012.
Racism, my friends.  It is no longer 1957; however, some fifty-five years later, racism is still alive and kicking.  I am heartbroken.

Granted, we can say our society has come a very long way since 1957 but holy poo……(why use sophisticated words when this is as simple as it gets), racism is still prevalent and more common in 2012 than one would be so inclined to think.  Am I na├»ve?
My father was born in 1934.  He was raised in a time where racism was the socially accepted norm.  Despite becoming less ignorant as he grew with age and acquired wisdom, he was deep down inside racist. 

In high school, I was very good friends with some black people.  In fact, I became very close with a black boy who was MVP of my track team. 
I remember my father setting his foot down and telling me that he would NOT allow any daughter of his to date a black guy.  First of all, I was friends with him.  Secondly, this particular episode was the first time I questioned my beloved father, and it sparked an all-out debate (okay, a knock down dragged out fight).  My parents had raised me to be “color-blind” when it comes to people and their different races.  Yet, here was my father being a hypocrite and telling me, a sixteen year old, that I could NOT EVER date a boy based on his skin color.  How dare he?  I remember telling myself at that time, I would NEVER treat my children in this same close-minded manner.

Flash forward some twenty-two years and my almost fifteen year old has a boyfriend.  A few weeks ago, she reluctantly shared with me that a boy asked her out and she had said yes.  (Now, our house rules on actually “dating” at this age are an entirely different blog post……..stay tuned)!  I immediately began asking questions about this boy; the teen who got my particularly picky daughter to say yes to his request to "go out" in the new and awkward world of high school “dating”.  The long and short of it is this boy is from a country in Africa, so yes, he is black.
My husband and I have discussed this before – when friends of our asked what we would do if our daughter ever decided to go out with a “black” boy.  I was shocked and asked why it would be any different than any other boy.  Racism, my friends, reared it’s big, fat and very ugly head.

A few of my daughter’s friends at school, upon finding out she was “going out” with someone, came up to her and said, “Oh, he’s black?”  What…the….fluffernutter?!?  Would you ever go up to someone upon learning of a new relationship and say, “Oh, he’s white?”  Please pause while I bang my head against the wall <bang….bang….bang….>.
A beloved family member also expressed some concern about the difference in race.  Granted, this family member is of that generation that has yet to fully come around.  Like my father, the older generations all claim they had good friends that were black; but they all have issue and discomfort with a romantic relationship of mixed origin.

Polka dot babies?  Really?  Sadly, my father referred to chocolate milk babies if I were to hook up with a black man with me being white.  <Bang.....bang.....bang......>.
You see, my daughter is not getting married or having babies just yet.  She’s nearly 15.  She's just now embarking into the wonderful world of teenage romance.  Did we not all "try on" multiple relationships to see who would be a good fit with our personalities?  My beautiful girl cannot help who she is drawn to.  She cannot help the “color” of person she is attracted to.  No ,I am NOT talking about skin color – I am talking about the color of character! 

All of this nonsense sparked a great conversation with our children – one of open dialogue and one where we all contributed; how silly it seems that there are people out there who cast judgment upon a person for something like their skin color.  We agreed that even being of the same immediate family, none of us have the same skin color.  It is true – my son has a yellowish tone to his skin and tans the darkest shade of bronze any of us have ever witnessed.  My oldest has the purest white skin and burns incredibly easy.  My youngest is somewhere in between the two.  I am remarkably white and even more so freckly.  My husband has a nice tone even skin year round.
To my joy and approval, my son brought up gay marriage to the discussion and it warmed my heart as we continued to talk about how one should be able to spend time with the one that makes them smile and laugh.  We should spend time with one that makes our heart smile and flutter.  Like the multitude of colors in our universe, our human race is filled with just as much beauty and it is, after all, our choice to have the freedom to choose which shade suits us just fine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday FAIL :: A Letter to my Kids

Dearest children,
We got our Christmas tree last weekend, and trust me when I say that I am sure we aren't the only semi-Jewish family in the universe that cheats a little when it comes to this particular holiday. I can poo-poo Easter, quite easily, and I can let Good Friday come and go without so much as a sideways glance.
But having grown up celebrating Christmas and then married into a world of latkes and Dreidels, it is just that party I don't want to miss, the vice I admit to having. Trust me, there are plenty more I deny. But you girls don't want to hear all about that! Let's talk about Holiday cheer. Let me admit something to you.
The honest truth is that I suck. I suck at celebrating Christmas.
I am always so completely broke that buying gifts for others seems like the world's most foolish endeavor, and this year is no exception.

Most years, I make all of my gifts by hand -- which is great for that new friend who hasn't seen all the tricks up my sleeve, but not so good for the sister who has been the recipient of my homemade gifts for 37 years and is getting a little stocked up on embroidered dish towels and crappy oozy bars of soap made from a kit at the craft store.
And it certainly isn't good enough for the three of you -- who want new shoes and clothes and the latest technology.
I don't even actually buy gifts for you guys -- the main reason we spend Christmas at Auntie's house is that I am always hoping that her Santa will be much more generous than ours.
I know you want me to be the mom that throws tinsel over every surface and has cinnamon scented candles in hurricane holders mounted in ivy-strewn sconces throughout the house. You want singing snowman music boxes and mistletoe and flags and placemats and specials kitschy signs on the door. You want blinking lights and laughing fits over power outages that occur because our lighting display can be seen from Mars.
Here's the raw deal:  You didn't get that mom.
You got the mom who is so completely frazzled she can't get out of her own way. The mom who  cheers on Dec. 26th because it's over. Who fumbles in her purse for the keys that are in her pocket simply to avoid the glance of the ringing Santa guy outside the stores. Who owns exactly four stupid little Christmas decorations and likes it that way.
Our Christmas cards will go out on Dec. 20th, if at all, and the pictures will probably be of you guys in your bathing suits. I will finish whatever shopping I do at the same time, and hope to pay off the credit card bill within 6 months, and I will be bitter. Extremely bitter. For most of it.
I suck at Christmas.
So one day, when you are tossing your tinsel and dusting off your porcelein nativity scene and lamenting to your kids about how your mother was a bah humbug and all-around no fun at Christmas, remember to cut me some slack.
And please take just a fraction of a moment to remember -- and maybe even tell your kids -- how very extremely good I was at loving you. In the end -- I hope it's the 364 other days of love you remember most, even more than what Santa has in his bag for you on that one day.
But Merry Christmas, all the same, little ones. I will always regard you as my greatest gift.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Whine is Peaking

Oh my lord. Oh my LORD! I am so out of shape. I went from being in shape to being not in shape anymore all because I stopped exercising. Pish! I am soooo bending over old lady style even just from lack of stretching and limbering myself. 

(Wow, it didn't spell check limbering...) 

I have been trying to grasp the difference between my bending over now to pick something up and my bending over 3 years ago. It is a subtle difference (other than the loud groan that I emit from my guts and throat) but I am not sure exactly the change. There is definitely a shortening of pants around my ankles as I bend. That feels very old in appearance, considering how long pants are these days. Where is all the fabric going? I assume it is spanning my globe. And a lot of my face falls forward as I bed, too. 

Face fallage. 

I did three days of Jillian Michaels' power yoga (a total lie since I did only 2 days of it) and I just wanted to punch her. Ever watch her? Yes, she is totally hot and completely ripped and obviously works out a lot....but not in her videos. She keeps stopping to talk to us while we are still struggling through a side plank with stacked feet. Shut up, woman and get down and do this with us. You lazy, lazy woman. Who do you think you are? You are the biggest loser, that is who! And if I got paid a gabillion bucks, I could look like you, too!

I am being unreasonable.

I have also reached the portion of the show where I give excuses. Ready?

So, my favorite thing to do is walk. Walk walk hike walk walk. But now it is cooooold. And my face is very Irish and stays red for daaaaaaays when it is exposed to the outdoors for over 15 mins. When I go sledding, I look at the calendar to make sure I don't have any "pretty" engagements coming up because I have to give myself a 3 day window to de-beet color my face.

And then there is the whole wanting to punch Jillian so now I actually have to look for more yoga videos on line. Ohhhhhh. That will make me not on facebook. Soooooo time consuming when I could be looking up pot pie recipes, too!! Pot piiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I do miss my time at Global Fitness and I do live somewhat near it's chain, but I don't waaaaaant to pay a gym membership and be in a gym anymoooooooore. I don't want to be driving for lengths of time in my car anymore now that I live away from everythiiiiiing and always have to drive.

Stop swatting at the screen. I know I am obnoxious right now. I hate when people are like this, too.

Sooooo. I am looking at the calendar and see that stupid January 1st date that 3/4 of America uses to decide to get into shape. I refuse that date! I do! But I don't know yet what the date will be when I just take the 10 minutes to do some deep stretching. And 10 minutes to do some core work. And 10 minutes to do resistance with my own body weight. (Not the resistance I am currently practicing that involves resisting all exercise other than walking when it is 50 degrees and warmer.) When you look at the 30 minutes that way, it is honestly not that big a deal. Then why is it such a big deal??!?! Whhhhyyyyyyy???

(Am I alone in this? I know I am not.)

Thank goodness for 50 degrees to start this week! (But I have a coooooooold. Sniff Sniff.)

I am going.... I am going.... On a walk and outta this whine fest.

2 hours later....

I wasn't going to do it at all, so instead I did it the most.

Vaughn Hill Conservation North Peak