Trophies & Standing Ovations for All!

We are Americans. While we might be capitalists, who don’t have the best reputation, we are, generally, a very nice people. We say ‘hello’ to strangers, we say ‘I’m sorry’ for ever getting in someone’s way, we give “only” a 10% tip for crappy service and ALL of our kids get trophies, just for trying. I, an American, am a very nice person. But I am also sad that this overly congratulatory culture has demeaned a long-standing (oh, the puns are going to be fun in this one) tradition, dating back to Ancient Roman times, of the standing ovation. I attended two events recently that, while wonderful, were not standing-ovation-worthy in my opinion, and it has made me wonder what we do, in a culture such as ours, when we start giving everyone a standing ovation, how we display our gratitude when something is truly exceptional, as the definition says.

The WIKI definition is this: A standing ovation is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after extraordinary performances of particularly high acclaim.

I would like to highlight the EXTRAORDINARY performance of PARTICULARLY HIGH ACCLAIM part of that definition. I have absolutely nothing against the standing ovation – I am simply frustrated by the over-use of it. It has devalued it both for those giving it and those receiving it. WIKI actually goes on to touch on this very subject, but in a very specific context – that “Some might say that the standing ovation has come to be devalued, such as in the field of politics, in which on some occasions standing ovations may be given to political leaders as a matter of course, rather than as a special honor in unusual circumstances.” But I will even give it to politics – if they want to use the standing ovation in their own rituals, I’ll let that go. Its roots are actually political in nature from the Ancient Romans, who used this gesture to welcome back military leaders who may not have won their battles, but who were still praiseworthy. I’m speaking about public performances where, due to the ovation over-use, there are no options to distinguish the great from the good. What shall we do now? Climb on to the backs of our theatre chairs? Somehow, I don’t think management would approve.

Just so you don’t think I am a total anti-standingovite, I would like to report that I have been part of / given a standing ovation at exactly two performances in my life. That seems like a pretty good ratio for a well-traveled, but maybe not SO cultured 40-year old with two small children (i.e. haven’t been to a lot of cultural events lately). In both of these instances, there wasn’t a moments hesitation, no reluctant standers. The first was a performance in Paris that was a combination Ballet and Opera. The music, dancing, costumes, singing…all of it was moving beyond expression. When it was over, there was a microsecond of silence, perhaps of awe, and then the audience was thrust to their feet by some inexplicable force – a creative energy that lifted people up in inspiration without an ounce of obligation. The other was a performance off Broadway, in New York, that traced the history of African Americans in America through dance. It was unexpectedly exceptional (I think much of the audience was there because it was what was available at the half-price ticket booth), and the entire theatre jumped from their seats, celebrating that we had just been part of something exceptional.

But now, evidently, we stand at the end of most live performances. Part of this, I think, may have to do with the fact that, as a society, we don’t see a lot of live performances. I’m going to exclude most big music concerts here because usually we are already standing at most of these venues. Concerts have their own rhythm and ending – I’m all for the Encore. But my point is that as our society has moved from one that relies on live entertainment in the days when the standing ovation started (plays, poetry readings, magician acts, etc.) to today, where we are mostly entertained by film and television (and live/reality entertainment on TV is not the same). So when we DO see actual people in front of us, we are compelled to, almost literally, throw ourselves at their feet in gratitude. I fully agree that there is something innately more pleasurable in “cultural” events such as plays and live events than watching them through our television sets, albeit our television sets are delivering images in larger and larger format. Perhaps one day watching television will be like going to play in that the figures in front of us will, in fact, be life-size. But in the meantime, we are not used to having actors and actresses, or speech-givers or dancers so close to us, and we want to ensure they know how much we appreciate them putting themselves out there for us – making themselves vulnerable to our otherwise judgmental ways (ultimately WHY reality TV is so successful). And this is nice.

There was another part of the WIKI description that I found interesting and that is historically, a performance may have been measured by the percentage of the audience that rose. Now, here’s an idea that I think has fully escaped us and actually fully redeems the frequent standing ovation for me. Perhaps there are some people who are ‘in the know’ who fully appreciate a performance for what it is worth (a performance in San Francisco of “Waiting for Godot” was torture for me, but I understood that more culturally literate people than myself probably fully enjoyed the rendition – it’s supposed to be torture. I don’t know if they got a standing ovation because I couldn’t wait any longer and left before the end), or people who are just very easily pleased, or very grateful sorts, then by all means, stand away. But what I’ve noticed is that it seems unacceptable, anymore, to stay seated during a standing ovation, such the whole room ends up standing. People look at each other in their seats, asking with their eyes, “are you going to get up? I know…I don’t really want to either, but…” and then you both reluctantly stand. I mean, really, who wants to be the last man/woman sitting? That’s just not nice.

So, I guess this means I need to be the change I want to see – I can’t stand for this any longer. I will have to be the stick in the, um, seat (sorry, I’ll stop). Will I be doing it alone? Here’s what I propose: if it’s not truly inspired, then just clap louder, clap longer, hoop and holler, but please, let’s reserve the standing ovation for, as the definition says, the truly extraordinary. 

Bacon, will you please move over?

I’m generally a ‘to each one’s own’ type of person, but there is something going on right now…some sort of bizarre movement….towards something that I just can’t support. I don’t think I’ve been anti-anything before, other than anti-hate, anti-war or any other anti that makes you roll your eyes and go, ‘yeah, you and most of humanity.’ But here it goes. I am (deep breath), I am, (oh the bravery I muster), I am anti-bacon. This obsession that this country suddenly has with the fatty, thin slice of pork people so lovingly call bacon must end. I have but one word in retaliation: eww. 

OK, so I’m not really anti-bacon, I am more anti-bacon obsession. My personal history with meat, in general, has been spotty at best. I’ve gone in and out of different forms of vegetarianism and I didn’t eat red meat for a solid 15 years. In case you are wondering, I always counted pork, despite it’s marketing claim of being ‘the other white meat’ as red. I currently eat meat, but generally not bacon, which is suddenly useful, in my cry out against it.

I am not imposing meat-loving on the U.S, by any means. I lived abroad (Europe) for several years and was equally if not MORE disgusted there, not only by meat, but by all of the other parts that people were very willing to eat. I get it – historically, there has been argument for using EVERY part of the animal. And the Buddhist in me likes the idea of using every part to honor the animal that gave it’s life (though I can’t stomach that, myself). But I guess I just think that as societies evolve, some of those things could be left behind…kind of like, as we now all have indoor plumbing, we got rid of the outhouses.  Anyway, I’ve traveled to a good number of continents and the meat obsession is a popular one – Brazil and the Churrascarias, Argentinian steaks, the Middle East and the lamb. Meat signals prosperity and for many / most…it tastes good. My reasons for multi versions of vegetarianism have always been health and taste related, not animal rights related (HOWEVER, with the advent of factory farms, this has started to creep in too). But this obsession with bacon? I don’t get it.

The first time I really realized that bacon was taking a strange place in American’s hearts was when I was  at a high-end restaurant here in Austin. When we got to the dessert choices, one of them – a fruit crumble (always a favorite of mine) – was paired with a home-made ice cream flavor of bacon.  Excuse me??? As an ice-cream aficionado, I struggled for words through my horror and gag reflex. You want to take something sweet and creamy and melty and smooth and pair it with swine? With the general revolt I’ve often felt for pork, I’ve often said I must have been either Jewish or Muslim in my last life. I felt, then, that a line had been crossed and bacon was officially out of control.

Then my colleague sent me this: Not for the weak hearted . So, this was it – the nail in the coffin. Hipsters in San Francisco. Design folks. Those that are supposed to have and define taste for the rest of us – have gone off the deep end.  This is so unappealing to me, I cannot fathom using it as a home-page image. Clearly, I am not their target market (they are an agency, so they are SUPPOSED to know stuff like that). OR they might argue that it did make me remember them, but it’s kind of like how I remember the time my son ate too many grapes and….anyway. Or there’s the Train-Wreck theory – so horrible, it’s impossible to look away. Most likely, they jumped on the bacon band wagon (between you and me, I otherwise love their site). AND then when I was google-searching for this site again (for this piece), I actually found this one: These guys are in the U.K -  it’s spreading!  From one marketing consultancy to another…guys, bacon and the words Fresh>Think? They Just. Don’t. Go. And the URL – I will not, thank you very much. Since when does bacon get characteristics like creativity and fresh? Since when has bacon come to represent anything but a heavy, greasy provision that even devout lovers know it is only good in small quantities? Since when does it evoke anything but laziness, gluttony and food comas?*

Alas, I have finally spoken my piece, but I am definitely losing this battle. Who am I to compete with rich fattiness that goes straight to the brain’s pleasure centers? Barley and Swine & Noble Pig Sandwiches are but two Austin sites with rave reviews. Even if I turn to the food Mecca, San Francisco, I find things such as the Bacon Bacon truck and the Bacon Dog Cart. But really, it was aready lost at the bacon ice cream.  If anyone else cares to join me in this bold stance AGAINST bacon, I’ve doctored up one of Bacon Bacon’s shirts here for us anti-bacon-culturites (below). And I’ll be seeing you in produce.

*author notes the irony that I am advertising for both firms, thus promoting the usage of bacon.

you lost me at bacon

Alright alright already…Letting Go

Sometimes the universe sends me messages. Sometimes it’s not very subtle. I find when something comes through for a third time, I finally get it. Just before March, a message came through 3 times within a 5 day period: Let go! First, I was attempting to write an essay for the Listen To Your Mother event this year in Austin. It’s a wonderful event and I would love to be a part. But I was struggling a little. On an emotional level, I was feeling blocked because last year I wrote an essay, was chosen for an audition, but didn’t make it into the show. While I was truly honored to even have been chosen for a reading, particularly after going to the show and hearing how great everyone’s essays were, there was some little part of me, and when I say little part I mean, like a little girl part of me that was very very sad she didn’t get chosen. So when it came to writing one again this year, I just couldn’t come up with anything. In addition, the deadline for the essay was Feb 29 and the screening event for Miss Representation that I had been planning for months was happening on March 1. Work has been wonderfully busy –  SO – bandwidth for writing sentimental yet humorous essays was not large, and evidently non-existent. But I did try. Two nights in a row, while my head bobbed in front of my computer, I continued to plunk words on the page..determined to write my way into two mothers’ hearts. I tried all kinds of meditative exercises to get me to a place of calm where I could block out my fear of rejection. I tried facing my fear and imagining the worst that could happen, which was not so bad – simply not to be chosen. I finally got out one essay. It wasn’t my best or nearly submit-able, but I thought it might be a start. When I had first saved the essay, I was about to title it, “letting go”, but it didn’t seem right.  I wasn’t sure if that was the right title for it or if that was coming to me because I was working so hard on letting go of my fear of rejection. So I named it ListenToYourMother2012, finished the essay, and went to bed slightly unfulfilled, knowing I had not knocked that one out of the park, but patting myself on the back for staying up (sort of) to do it.

The next day I was having lunch with a friend who is one of the most creative people in my life and a great inspiration on many levels. I posed the question to her, “how do I get over my fear of rejection so that I can actually write something? I know the fear is there…I think that’s what’s stopping me, but dealing with it rationally isn’t going to help,” I explained. Instead of going to some creative woo-woo spot, she went practical on me. “Maybe you just can’t do it right now – maybe you have too much going on.” “Yes, maybe.” Not really the answer I was looking for. You know your best friends because they are always pointing out the truth about things. The exact truth you were trying to avoid. We discussed my current schedule, my lack of sleep. I explained that I wrote something the night before, but I did it between head bobs and that it wasn’t great work. “What’s it about?” she asked. She had helped me prepare for my reading for LTYM the year before. I told her the opening line, which was “The longer I am a mother, the less I care” and that it was how, as the kids get older, I realize that many of the things I’ve been worrying about since they were born  – their diets, their sleep…it doesn’t matter as much as I thought it did. In the big picture of things, they are going to turn out to be whoever they are, no matter what. She sat for a second and let it sink in, nodding. “You should call it Letting Go”.  I was slightly stunned that she picked out the same name for it that I had hearing only the first line and the overall theme. I took that as the second “letting go”. While “Letting Go” might have been a somewhat obvious title, one of the reasons I chose not to go with it, it was still striking to have someone state back to me something that I had thought of for myself, but had passed over. It was like the universe picked it up off the floor and said, “here, you dropped this.” Thanks.

During this time, I had started to become a bit stressed, worrying if anyone was going to show up to the Miss Representation event and simply wanting everything to go off without a hitch. The added stress of this did not help my ability, or my inability, to write.I then had a singing lesson. I’ve been taking these lessons for a couple years now – on and off again – and all of the coaching is done over the phone. My coach is part singing coach part life coach and I get a lot out of every lesson, even if my voice doesn’t improve. During our half hour, we were talking about not holding back, not worrying about sounding perfect. At one stage she said, “OK, we have it! We have a theme for you for March…it’s Letting Go!” I took pause. And then I explained to her that that was very odd. “I am also a writer,” I said, ‘and just the other day I wrote an essay and I called it Letting Go. It was about parenting, but that’s exactly what I was calling it.” This was not exactly true, as I mentioned, I had named it ListenToYourMother2012, but when my friend had plucked the same “Letting Go” title out of nowhere, I had decided in my head that that is probably what it needed to be called. There was a thoughtful silence on the phone and she got a little emotional. She went from emphatic “Letting go!” to somber. She said that really moved her. Me too. I was a little stunned that for the third time the message was coming through and this time it was being shouted by someone I listen to very closely. Let Go!

Now, one could pretty easily argue that the sum of the whole religion of Buddhism could, perhaps, be summed up in those two words. Let go. Letting go. Letting go of concepts and beliefs. Letting go of Ego. The only way to be ‘one with the universe’ (though no one says this in Buddhism, BTW) is to let go of the notion that you are separate from it. So having the universe tell me to “let go” was not such a different message than I’ve gotten over the last 13 years as a Buddhist, but this was definitely the most direct. But let go of what, specifically? Let go of being a part of the show? Let go of the fear of not being a part of the show? Let go of my desire to always look good, which was holding me back in my singing and probably, I figured, in my writing? So perhaps it wasn’t a message about a specific event, but a general message about my way of being?

Either way…letting go. I’ve been trying it on. I ultimately decided to let go of LTYM. I was truly too tapped to pull that one off. I decided to submit the same essay as last year – it felt better than not attempting at all. The essay, “Letting Go,” I feel, has it’s time coming, but it’s not right now. The Miss Representation screening was great. Even with all of my passion for the issues that surround that film, I had forgotten how powerful it is. It felt really good to see how bringing it to 70 more people inspired others. 

I think the point is not to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to be letting go of, but to hold this sentiment with me and use it when it makes sense. After the screening, I was moderating a panel discussing raising children in the context of a media-frenzied world, and I did my fair share of fumbling on my words or asking questions that weren’t clear and having 3 panelists and a room full of people blankly staring at me. Letting go of worrying about looking bad was coming in pretty handy there, so I used it. My essay wasn’t chosen for the LTYM event, but I let go of that meaning anything at all and I really just look forward to attending again this year. I also recently got over one of my biggest fears and I did karaoke, first in a room full of friends, and then recently in a bar, in front of my husband. “Letting go” was necessary for both of those things to happen. I guess I’ll just keep my “letting go” theme in my pocket, like a lucky rabbit’s foot, sometimes just touching it as a reminder, and sometimes using it like a charm. And I’ll let go of needing to know what it’s for.

A Different Speed

I’ve been thinking about speeding and thinking about writing about speeding for a long time. I get that it’s kind of a strange thing to think about speeding – it’s more something we DO, than something we think about, but if you haven’t gathered this about me already, I think a lot. To a fault, for sure. I wonder what that says about me that I find over-analyzing fun? 

Anyway, the reason I’ve thought a lot about speeding is because just over five years ago, I moved to this lovely city of Austin. Where weird is good, where gluten-free is the norm, and where people drive really fucking slow. I can be a little weird – that’s certainly relative. I DO eat gluten (gasp!), though I know enough about food and health-food lingo to be accepted. But the driving? I immediately wanted to write about it because I found it so frustrating – but that just seemed darn-right rude. Move to a city and then publicly criticize most of the drivers? Who does that? So, instead, I’ve just been thinking about it for five years. And in the last month, I’ve officially forked over $410 in speeding fines for 2 tickets (I had another one at the beginning of the year for which I forked out another $200 and 6 hours of time for a defensive driving course), so this issue has come to a head. Specifically, I’ve had to admit that maybe I have a problem (deep breath, still kind of hard to write). 

First, let me explain the backdrop on my belief about speeding. I think everyone is wired, like in a biological way, on a few key aspects in life and so it’s very hard to go against these things. I have developed this theory because I am a person who is wired one way, but grew up in another way. For example: Climate preference. I am wired to live in HOT climates – 85 degrees is my sweet spot, I am cold in anything less than 70 degrees and I think anything below 50 is absolutely intolerable. The astonishing thing to most people is that I grew up in Wisconsin. It was 23 years of seasonal hell. Sure, I appreciate the beauty of the first snow-fall and crisp, cold sunny days where the snow crunches under one’s boots, but you better believe that on the finest of winter days, I am wearing at least 5 layers and honestly, I just don’t think one needs to live where one feels the need to be is so heavily protected. 

I also think the wiring comes into play in the big city/small town choice. Linked, clearly, to the central nervous system, I think people are wired for the lively energy, loud buzz and constant magnificent moving machinery of a big city OR the slow-pace simplicity of a small town. I’m a big-city gal and I grew up in a town of miniscule population (3,000 people). I remember my first trip to Chicago when I was in middle-school. I went with a friend who had cousins that lived in the suburbs. We all went into the city for the day and I was speechless from the beauty of the skyscrapers, the sophistication of the inhabitants and the abundance of things to DO there. I felt at home. 

All of this is to say that I think how fast (or slow) one drives is a hard-wired attribute as well. The climate gene, the urban gene and the speed gene. Perhaps not identified yet, but I’m pretty sure they exist. I say this because I think there is a certain speed that everyone is just comfortable driving at and I’ve been, in the past, an advocate of people driving at the speed they are comfortable at, EVEN (deep breath) if that means they drive below the speed limit. While this drives me nuts when I’m behind these people, if I think about it, I don’t want them to speed up if they don’t think they can handle driving at the speed limit. I MIGHT be inclined to make the argument that the speed limit be sort of a barometer for whom we let on the streets,  but as my clearly slow-driving neighbor argued, it is a speed LIMIT and not a speed minimum. Hmmmm. Yes. Semantics will get me every time. Not to mention I have a harder time making the opposite argument because there certainly is something like ‘excessive speeding’, which of course, no speeder thinks they do, present company included. 

On my first draft of this post, this was the section where I was going to justify my speeding. I felt it was part of getting to acceptance of the problem. I was right on that, but much to your benefit, I have been talking about all of this among friends, and I’ve realized that my arguments sound pretty ridiculous when voiced out loud. My whole ‘drive at your comfort level’ argument really sounded obnoxious when I presented that one in front of my book club – 12 highly intelligent women who all presumably like me a little bit on some level – but who were happy to put me in my place. That was like a sweat-lodge: I had to purge a lot of beliefs and notions I had about it as I ranted like a crazy person. The book for that month was “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed.” In all other areas, I agreed with the author, I still wasn’t with him (yet) on the speeding.

There were actually other speeders in that group, and over the last 6 weeks (since court) I’ve bonded with others and we all concur on one point: we are APPROPRIATE speeders. I really want to cling to this idea because I really think I AM an appropriate speeder, but I do recognize that enforcing ‘appropriate speeding’ is a little trickier. And so when I finally dropped that argument, and with countless hours of scoul scraping (it’s been painful) this is where I got to with staying within speed limits: I don’t like people to tell me what to do. I’m not sure anyone does, but speed limits, in particular, seem a tad arbitrary – where I’ve been picked up twice, the speed limit changes from 30 to 35 within blocks of each other and it’s actually faster downtown, which makes no sense to me. It really bugs ME to follow rules that don’t make sense to ME – because I am so important. Or so my ego believes. Interestingly, I ask my children to do this every day. I can reason that my rules make sense (I am not a strict mom by any means), and they DO to an adult, but to my children? Not always. So, the speed limits are arbitrary to me. To a police officer? To the judge? The people who actually matter here? Not so much. It’s pretty simple. It’s their rule. Follow it. 

While following arbitrary rules is slightly painful, it’s more painful for me to be paying these exorbitant ticket prices (in TX, you can pay more money to avoid it going on your record, an injustice for sure, but one that has been working out for me), so I have been working on re-wiring. That’s right. Just because I believe we have the climate gene, the urban gene and the speed gene, doesn’t mean I believe we can’t live another way. San Francisco, for example is the town closest to my heart, but it is arguably downright chilly for much of the year. I know plenty of people who prefer small towns, but live in big ones and vice versa. No one DIES from this. And then there’s this big one: As a Buddhist, it does seem a tiny bit contradictory to insinuate that happiness is tied, even in the slightest, to our external circumstances or constraints. And in fact, this is much what a spiritual path is about: re-wiring our habits and thoughts that create our unhappiness. It just took an interceding party (the police) to make me unhappy about speeding, otherwise, it suited me just fine. It takes an interceding party (the police) to keep people from doing lots of things that suit THEM just fine. Yes, I get it. 

Back to the night of book club, a self-proclaimed slow-driver (she told me she uses her cruise to ensure she stays at the speed limit when I told her I was having to use mine a lot to stay at it) and I were arguing back and forth about speed limits and she kept saying, “it’s fast enough”…”that area? 30 miles per hour is fast enough”, “65 is more than fast enough on a highway through town”, etc. etc. Her words were like a slow-working esthetician, annoying and painful. However, as I’ve been working on the re-wiring, staying conscious of my speed at ALL times (I took an oath in court to not be picked up again within 6 months, so paranoia has been high), using my cruise control in particularly challenging areas, I keep hearing her words in my head. I know the re-wiring is working because lately I’ve been answering her, even as other drivers speed past me, saying yes, it is. It wasn’t that I was in a hurry before, it’s just that I was just trying to get everywhere faster; going my own speed. But I live in Austin now. It’s a small-ish town, relatively speaking from where I and so many people who have moved here come from, and it’s a great place to be. And yes, it is, indeed, fast enough.

And Everything Worked Out Just Fine. The End.

It’s funny how things just keep working out for the best. It’s so cliché, right? I know. But, like stereotypes, which become stereotypes for a reason, perhaps clichés suffer from the same fate. My husband, the cynic, would question, “How do you know it’s the best? How do you know another outcome wouldn’t have been better?” Touché. 

To that, of course there is no answer. So perhaps instead of working out for the best, I’ll just say, they just seem to work out really well. They work out just fine. This is how I’m feeling about life right now. I am sitting in an interesting position where I can see how some things have been through their questionable times and now they’ve worked out for the best, wait, I mean, they’ve worked out really well, while in other areas I am squarely in the ‘I don’t know how this is working out for the best’ bit, but I have this strange calm about them, because of the ones that HAVE worked out nicely. 

The first is my daughter’s pre-school. If you don’t recall, the short story is: removed her from prior pre-school (drop-offs were bad for over a year), with the intention of going to School A or a back-up, School B. But School A didn’t work out because of an assessment Eliana refused to take part in (yes, there’s a whole crowd rooting for her, so go ahead), and we were three families away from getting into school B, which meant we had school Z, for zilch. I made a couple desperate phone calls, but several weeks before school was starting, we still didn’t know where she would be going, if any place at all. And then we got the miracle call out of the blue that there was one opening at one of the schools that we love, due to a child moving last minute. They needed a girl born between March and August. Eliana’s spot. It’s been a very successful venture – while she doesn’t love getting dropped off, she has not shed even one tear – if you only knew the stark contrast from the scenes we had before, you would understand my measure of success. She seems to really like it there – she talks highly about it and some of the other students – something we didn’t get with the last one. I have no doubt that this worked out for the best brilliantly. 

If I take step back, big-picture, for our family, I also feel things are working out rather pleasantly. Early this year, my husband was at a cross-road professionally. He had been deciding between a couple career moves. I knew which route I DIDN’T care for (one of them would have had him traveling 4-5 days a week), but was prepared to stand by him and his dreams and make whatever worked out work. Because under my current argument, had that worked out, that would have been ‘for the best’ also. I know, this kind of messes with your head. One of his paths didn’t work out – it closed down for him. I know it was a real blow to him at the time and perhaps he didn’t see it as such, but I could see that that one really was working out for the best, well, the best for me and our family, which arguably, is also the best for him right now. He is currently pursing his PhD, another life’s dream of his. I had my own set of reservations about this option, but it was my preferred of the two by default because I so didn’t want the other  to happen. One of my concerns was financial. Shortly after starting the program, there was a sizeable stock market crash and we didn’t weather it very well (he’s a finance guy so he manages all of our money). I didn’t panic, but we did cancel the travel plans we had slotted in for the rest of this year – we were going to travel for both holidays – beach at Thanksgiving and skiing for Christmas. I wasn’t wed to either trip – we are very fortunate to be able to travel a lot, so it seemed easy enough to take a break from it. What I didn’t realize was how lovely this would all feel. I have actually enjoyed trying to cut back on spending – it’s like a daily challenge to see how many deals I can get on things we need. We’ve started to discuss holiday plans and it feels really good that we are going to be here. Even with school starting and everyone ramping up activities after summer, it actually feels like we’ve dialed back our family’s pace. Our family metronome has gone from Allegro to Adagio. I didn’t know I wanted that or needed that, but it feels soooooo good. It feels like, despite the stress of financial woes (which, truthfully, are not stressful yet and I’ll get back to you on this when and if they do) and a major upheaval like my husband going back to school for 5-7 years, it feels like everything is working out for the best agreeably. 

There are also a couple areas of life that don’t feel like they are going very well. Namely, my endeavors to make money through my marketing consulting business and my desire for me to spend more time writing and potentially make money in this area as well (make money from writing, now that should be an easy nut to crack, no?). The thing is- because of the mode I am in right now, I can really see these things for the phase that they are – and that eventually, I’ll be able to say how both of these things have worked out for the best, smashingly, even if they don’t work out at all. I just have absolutely no idea what that’s going to look like right now. And that can be really frustrating. Really, really frustrating on some days. Again – I am lucky (I think) to have the luxury to have these picking-the-lint-from-the- belly-button moments about these things while I continue to earn little – not a position a lot of people have. I say “I think” because perhaps if I absolutely had to figure something out (think R.K. Rowlings who, after hitting rock bottom, turned things around with ‘her old typewriter’), then maybe I would. But I will. For now, the only thing I can do is keep on keep’n on. The rest will work out. Even if I have to find bottom first to find my way up…I then just hope I’ll have the good sense to read back on my own blog and remember….

everything is going to be ok

 You didn’t hear it here first.

It’s the Little Things

Tonight at dinner with my family, I noticed a young couple who looked like they were on a date. I had a moment of strange appreciation when I thought, “at least I never had to worry that a guy was going out with me because I had big boobs.” I don’t know if people with big boobs would ever think or worry about this, but I’ll just take my little moment of appreciation for myself- ya take what you can get. Just like you’ve got what you were given. Kind of, unless you choose to get more. But whatever, you know what I’m trying to say:).

um, Cute Kid?

I LOVE seeing pics of people’s kids on Facebook, BUT, using them as a profile picture creates something unsettling for me. Does anyone else think it’s kind of weird when there’s a picture of a 10 month old next to some strong political opinion or some current event? Like, “oh, cute baby!” right next to “God Damn the Tea Party”, which is of course is followed by that person’s friend’s comment right next to his 3 and 5 year old blonde haired smiling angels that says “Who are you to criticize, asshole? Why was I ever friends with you?” Followed by a reply from 10-month old chubby cheeks that says, “Actually, we never were friends, I only accepted your invitation to be NICE”

For those of you who clicked over from Facebook, who are now thinking, that’s nice Carmen, but YOU have a picture of you and your child as your profile picture, I say, It’s different. I don’t have strong political opinions, unless you count the one thing about women not being in power, and anyway, I don’t make my opinions known on Facebook, you actually have to click over to my blog which looks like a serene Buddhist’s writing playground, but turns out to be a sharing of some insane specifically unenlightened thought of the day. Like this one. It is different- the satirical humor of it all is subtle, buried. Perhaps not ever found. So you can just say, “oh, cute kid!” And move on with your life.

Sing’n the Blahs

I seem to be suffering from something, emotionally speaking. It’s not quite depression, though my motivation is extremely low. I sometimes feel a little bit sad for no reason, but other times I am content. I am a bit weepy (I got choked up listening to edited bits of the Royal Wedding on NPR), but just as quick to laugh. Insecurity is high in some areas, and at the same time, I don’t care about much. These are the kind of days when I would go to the grocery story in my grubbiest versions of my Saturday morning uniform of yoga pants and tank top, and not care one bit how I look. Nothing is wrong, I just don’t want to do anything. This Saturday is distinct from the last (formula for Saturday success), where I took on my to-do list with realistic rigor. I am wondering if perhaps the overwhelm from my to-do lists has actually finally pushed me over the edge into this slump. I have even had my coffee today, but it hasn’t really “helped”. I still want to sit here. Doing. Nothing. I am deeming my affliction the good old-fashioned blahs.

My kids asked to watch TV this morning – a common request. Today I said yes, and I’ve been enjoying a lazy morning of Saturday morning cartoons. We are even watching – those who know me will know how out of character this is – Cinderella. I am NOT a Disney person or fan (ok, technically, since the Pixar acquisition, I guess I am), but any mother knows the Disney distinction and let’s suffice it to say, I am not a Disney mom. Princesses? No thank you. I would like my daughter to learn self-sufficiency instead of being rescued by a man (and I know – because I feel this way, it’s only a matter of time before my daughter is all princess all of the time). Interestingly, the DVD that we have here because my husband found it in one of his employee’s lap-tops last night, is Cinderella II.  It’s strange in this children’s movie world, all movies have sequels that none of us non-kid or non-Disney people know about because they don’t bother with theaters – they are quickly made for a DVD audience of under 5. Surprisingly, the first 30 minutes were about Cinderella finding herself as a Princess, not being able to conform. She decides to love who she is and be herself. Hmmmm. Disney – have you gone enlightened on me?? There was plenty I could find fault with too, but really, who has the energy?

The blahs are distinct from the blues because I am not sad. I have nothing to be sad about. Things are “fine”. Normally a word I don’t care for, it sort of fits right now. Things are not going particularly smashingly right now (work, writing, life), but they are not going badly either. Parenting is actually going along pretty smoothly, which is actually a huge thing, but I’m just not that excited about it. This is a classic sign of the blahs – no strong reactions one way or another. Good? Bad? Whatever. (This is actually helpful in parenting, btw, though I’m not sure of long-term effects of my blahs on the children.)

I’ve been feeling this way most of the week, sort of in and out. My husband hasn’t mentioned anything, but he gave me a sweet card this week AND flowers. Either he senses that something is up with me or he’s having an affair. Either way, the card and flowers were really sweet. He’s the best. Perhaps I should be sharing him anyway.

My mother noticed it when I spoke with her the other day. Eleven hundred miles away, she has learned to be in tune with my phone-voice inflections for gauges on how I’m really doing. Not that I am ever one to hide it, but her momar is highly sensitive – ready to help me through any bad time. She’s the best too. I have great family.

I think there are treatments for the blahs. I could start checking boxes (the importance of checking boxes). Working out might be one. Coffee usually does something, but not today. I could step up the drugs….I’m sure there is something in our medicine cabinet? But nah – that’s the thing with the blahs – not a big desire to fix it – to fix anything. It’s not bad, it’s just blah.

You Can Take a Giraffe Out of the Wild…

The kids and I were at the zoo the other day and I was marveling at the giraffes. I have always loved them. Growing up with long lanky limbs, giraffes were my solace in nature, proving that awkward could be beautiful. A kindred spirit, they have always been. I was near tears with how moved I was, watching these gorgeous creatures (the Dallas zoo does a particularly good job of making it so that you are very close to them and looking deep into their mystical eyes). Then the giraffe that I was watching lowered his neck and took a drink of pee from the heavy stream that was being released by his giraffe neighbor and, apparently, very good friend. The kids thought this both gross and hilarious. For me, the magic of the moment had ended, so we carried on to the lions, from whom I expected a touch more sophistication. Those giraffe’s – they look nice, but you really can’t take them out.

Formula for Saturday Success

Such a beautiful Saturday. Aside from the absolutely perfect weather, it started with all of us sleeping in. OK, a kid- sleep-in, so it was 7:45 a.m., but there were no alarms and I wasn’t awakened from REM sleep in the middle of a steamy dream about, well, sleeping). We got up leisurely, no one crying, not even me. The kids played while I readied myself – brushing and rinsing away the night’s fumes and oils. I put on my Saturday morning uniform of yoga pants and the softest tank top I can find, layered with a fleece, of course, because I am always cold. We leisurely made our way down stairs where I made pancakes and no one even fought about whose turn it was to pour in the milk or that “she got to pour in more than I did.” I had coffee. We ate together, they played. I could not have asked for anything more from a Saturday morning with the kids.

And then it happened. My coffee sparks something and I start looking around and I see projects – lots and lots of projects – all of the projects that accumulate through the week that I don’t do. All of the cleaning up that always needs to be done. Decks to be swept, art projects to sort, weeding and a Sunday New York Times from last weekend that has yet to be cracked open (in my defense on this one, we were out of town last weekend). Rather than overwhelm, however, on Saturday mornings I meet these projects with a sassy optimism. A gleam in my eye that says, aha! You thought you could overwhelm me? Well, it’s Saturday and I just had coffee. My kids are playing and I will conquer you ALL!!!! Hahahahahahahah (evil laugh, of course).

How this usually plays out, however, is a frenetic attempt at many projects, almost at once, with the usual interruptions to manage 5 and 3 year old needs, of which there are always many, and which results in almost nothing accomplished by the end of the day, and I always feel frustrated….no, defeated. I hang up my warrior dusting rag and hope for more productivity on Sunday.

But not today. I don’t know whose voice of reason showed up, as it was rather unusual for me, but I knew I needed to get real if I wanted to keep the good day roll’n. I made a list AND it was ridiculously realistic. As a mother, I find there can never be more than 3 things accomplished in a day, really. And that’s if they are of reasonable size, and barring any major kid deviations like injury or illness. So I kept it real:  Clean the bird cage, work out and post to my blog. We had a kid-school shindig in the afternoon, so I knew that was about all that would or could be done. I wanted to feel what it would feel like to cross off the whole list for a change. Now with this post, I can! Wow. My sassy optimism continues….I just eyed my kids’ art project pile with a gleam and a ‘I’ll be seeing you in the morning.’