Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wascally Wabbit Wisdom

There are advantages to living in the 'country'.  Among them, I particularly enjoy the wild life.  We have all sorts of creatures around here from your usual back yard critters to deer, moose, wild turkeys, fox, snapping turtles, coyotes, a gazillion birds, cows and goats (generally penned in by the local farmer but occasionally escape) and even a random black bear now and again.  My personal favorite are the wild rabbits.

I've always loved the 'jack-bunnies', ever since I was a little girl.  Sure, they are cute, but why do I still find them such a joy to watch?  They always make me smile.  Lately, I've pondered my fascination with rabbits.  What I've come to realize is rabbits may hold the secret to being joyful.  Perhaps everything we need to know we can learn from rabbits.

The pearls of rabbit wisdom I've come up with are as follows:

  1. Eat your vegetables.  The bunnies love to munch on the tasty grass and flowers.  They enjoy vegetable gardens, which I know makes you gardeners dislike them, but they are just trying to eat well!  
  2. Play more.  The rabbits are so fun to watch when they play with each other.  The leaps, jumps, rolling around in the dirt, seductive side-lying poses and games of chase are fun!  They exude pure joy when they are playing.
  3. Make informed choices.  Rabbits have a keen sense of hearing.  They are always aware of their surroundings and carefully assess any danger.  They use their ears like radar dishes.  They freeze when they are unsure to assess their surroundings, we refer to it as going "chocolate bunny" because when still, they often look like a chocolate Easter rabbit.   Once the situation is assessed, they act accordingly.
  4. Look out for each other. They thump their back legs to warn other rabbits of potential danger. They've got each other's back.  
  5. Run away when danger approaches.  If they feel threatened they run.  Often all zig-zaggy and into the thicket where they are hidden and protected.  
  6. Show off your talents and court your mate.  Rabbits have amusing mating rituals involving lots of aforementioned playfulness.  It's hard to show a girl you are 'the one'.  It's equally as hard to choose a proper mate to father your young bunnies.  Lay it all out there.  Be yourself.  Show the world the real you.  Respect their response to your advances.  Not every bunny loves some bunny. 
  7. Make love.  Often.  Everyone knows rabbits love the bunny love.  It's why there are so many baby bunnies on a regular basis around here!  Maybe it's why when they run, they flip their bunny bums around and do pogo jumps.  They are in love!  Hey, there are lots of physical and emotional benefits to orgasm, regardless of how big your ears are! No wonder bunnies are a symbol of fertility!  And no, I'm not having any more babies!!!
  8. Young rabbits do not realize the dangers that lurk in the 'real world'.  We must show and teach them.  We notice the baby bunnies, although adorable, don't know enough not to run into the road, they haven't learned to assess danger and warn others and they tend to do 'panic bunny' instead of  'chocolate' bunny and run to safety.  Sometimes, they even walk right toward a very dangerous situation, oblivious to the potential danger.  Even if their parents try to teach them, they need reminding, nurturing and a good example to follow.  They grow and learn and eventually become responsible adult bunnies. Sometimes they pay for their mistakes or those of their parents, with their lives.  
  9. Realize not everyone is going to like you.  It's part of life.  Stay away from those who don't accept you for what you are, seek out those who do.  Psst, bunnies, this means stay out of the gardens of the neighbors who called the police in town and asked how to get rid of the 'nuisance rabbits'!  You are always welcome here!  
To think, all this wisdom from sitting on my deck, watching rabbits in my yard and on my morning runs.  

So next time you see a bunny in the yard.  Ask yourself what it's there to teach you.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

When you reach the end of your rope you should...

I hate to admit it, but I've reached the end of my rope.  It's thin, frayed, and very, very well worn.  It's exceptionally long and has supported me for 43 years.  It has many thin sections, many knots and loops (none yet big enough to get around my neck), some glue and duck tape and nearly every color of the rainbow represented.  It's stained with tears. I've climbed it, swung on it, done all manner of tricks with it and now I'm dangling at the end wondering exactly what does one do when they've reached the end of their rope?

You'd think I'd have reached the end years ago.  Life's events certainly test the strength and resiliency of one's rope.  Marriage, a baby, postpartum depression, a miscarriage, twins, the death of a child, divorce and the loss of dear friends and a life turned upside down should've been enough to take me to the end of my rope.  Somehow, I managed to climb back on, maybe after swinging for a while at the end, but I inched my way back to a place of security and comfort and confidence.  My strength always surprised me.

Desire should be enough to inspire me to climb back up again.  I've done it before, surely I can do it again, right?  I'm not sure I have the strength now.  At least not today.  I'm not sure I have the desire.  The temptation to let go and fall into whatever lies beneath me is strong at times.  What's down there?  Under my rope?  Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps it's the dark abyss, depression and death.  I always said I won't rest until I'm dead.  I need rest...

Maybe it's a really pretty place with a soft landing.  Maybe it's warm and sunny with a lush landscape and a gentle breeze.  Maybe there is peace, quiet and joy, perhaps even enlightenment!  Maybe there is a world where I don't feel overwhelmed.  Where my kids actually LISTEN and are respectful, responsible and accountable.  Where I don't have to coordinate the lives of 4 people but only need coordinate mine because they all take responsibility for themselves instead of waiting for me to remind them or tell them outright what to do or to do it for them.  Where they ask what they can do for me for a change.

Maybe there is a place where my house is clean, I actually have the time and desire to eat and even make healthy meals for my family.  Maybe, in this place, I will even have time for ME.  You know, to nurture myself.  What would I do?  Sleep.  Read.  Be crafty.  Meditate.  Pursue metaphysical studies. Reiki more.  Exercise, regularly and completely instead of this half-assed bits and pieces inconsistent pattern I have.  Finish all the scrap-booking and jewelry projects I started years ago.  Organize my crap.  Write a book or two.  Devote more time to Meghan's Hope.  Tend to Meggie's special place the way I want to and should. Further my passion and my dream business.  Travel.  Experience a low-stress life. Spend time with friends and family at non-party events. Did I mention sleep?

Maybe it's a place where things start and end on time and where there is a respect for a parent's time and commitment to their children and their activities and a shared responsibility for raising and transporting them on all levels.  A place where soccer didn't consume all my non-work hours.  Where schools didn't have unreasonable expectations of parents. Oh, how wonderful it would be if that place was a place of no stress, where everyone is equally nurtured, supported and respected.  Where needs are anticipated and met before having to ask.  Where....

Right.  I know, crazy.  I have been accused of being an idealist.  A girl can dream, can't she?  It's all I have between me and that abyss right now.

I've tried to create that dream environment.  Really, I have.  I've failed.  Miserably.  I don't know what else to do.  My kids have every tool at their disposal to foster their independence and responsibility.  They don't use them.  They don't drive, so I'm responsible for transport.  I'm a fool for having expectations because more often than not, they are not met and I'm left scrambling.

I do still need to work full time, so the bottom line is in order for me to not lose my job, I have to pick up the pieces the kids don't. I am a master organizer and multi-tasker and I'm failing there, too, because I'm overwhelmed and I can't manage it alone.  I'm forgetting important things.  This is not like me.  It's making me crazy and frustrated.  What choice do I have?  I've enlisted all the help I can, it's sparse and inconsistent and unreliable.  I still always have to have a back up plan and it's always me.  Always.

I don't wanna!  I quit.  *insert tantrum here* I'm done.  At least for now.  My solution?  I slept an unprecedented 9 hours last night.  Escapist?  Hell yes.  It was either that or completely lose it on my family.  As a practical matter, I needed the sleep.  Should I have done at least some of the gazillion things on my to do list?  Made my kids dinner?  Made sure they fed the cats?  Yep.  Do I care?  Not today.

My solution?  I'm on strike.  Yes.  Mom is on strike.  It says so on the white board on the fridge.  I wish them good luck.  I'm not doing a damn thing today to help them or facilitate their success.  I'm leaving for work at 8.  If they are not up, oh well.  No camp for them and hell to pay for missing it. If they don't pack their lunch, they'll be hungry.  If they don't have their swimsuit and towel, they won't swim at camp.  If they don't pack their soccer stuff, they won't go to soccer.  I'm done.  D. O. N. E. They can cook, clean, launder their clothes, organize their own lives and find their own transport.  Maybe it'll just be for today.  Maybe it'll be indefinitely, or at least until they step it up.

Selfish?  Yes.  I'm not sure what that's like.  They seem to like it.  Maybe I will, too!  I think I'll leave my crap all over the house, not clean my room, expect my clothes to magically appear clean and in my room when I need them and play with my electronic gadgets for hours on end.  I'll text all my friends stupid nonsensical stuff. Seems to be all the rage these days.  I'll ask them to make me food, to take me places and to remind me to do my stuff.  Then I'll keep playing with my electronic gadgets and not do my stuff. Divine, eh?

Not sure that will help my rope any, but it seems desperate times call for desperate measures.  Maybe some self-nurturing and absolving myself of responsibility will fix my rope.  What do you do with the end of your rope?

Or I could dip the end of my rope in wine and suck on it!  Wait, if there is a vat of wine for dipping, I'll just let go and fall into it!  Maybe there is chocolate there, too...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Supermom is super tired

I said I never wanted to be a supermom.  You know, one of those crazy multi-tasking over-achieving parents who try to work full time, manage the kids and their crazy busy schedules and still cook, clean and entertain while having everything organized and running like clock work.  I just wanted to be a mom.  I wanted to stay home with my kids and raise them with the values I was raised with.

Let me tell you, it's a damn good thing because I suck at it.

I had a dream about 14 years ago.  You know the one.  Where I was a stay at home mom and raised my kids the 'right' way.  We unschooled we did some unstructured home schooling.  We had educational day trips, just my son and I.  We played.  A lot.  We were crafty. We cooked together.  We snuggled and read and giggled.  We had lots of play dates.  The world taught us much.

Then I had twins.  Hello wake up call to prioritizing and truly being focused on mothering.  I'm not entirely sure how, but I managed a 3 year old and newborn twins.  We had to get out to get to pre-school and doctor's appointments and La Leche League meetings.  I loved sharing my bed, my body and my soul with my children.  We'd all pile up on the bed or sofa and read or watch a movie as they got older.  We played.  We went to Farmland.  A lot!  We sat on the deck all summer with the kiddie pool and crafts and all sorts of creative play.  I dreamed of home schooling them and began to plan for the coming years.  I worked very part time teaching and doula-ing and it was tremendously fulfilling.  I began to write a book.

Fast forward a year or so.  I lost one of the twins to a tragic accident.  I now mothered an angel and two grieving boys.  They were my world.  The book was sidelined and never resumed.  My husband and I separated and eventually divorced.  It was the right thing to do for all of us, but not easy by any means and not something I took lightly.  Eventually, I went back to work, first part time and then full time, once the kids were in school full day.  It was hard.  I thought it would get easier.

Now the boys are older.  It's supposed to get easier, right?  Wrong.  They are more needy than ever.  Emotionally, educationally, socially, even physically.  They still need a lot of guidance, organizing, reminders (some would say nagging), positive reinforcement and discipline.  They need homework help.  They need rides.  Everywhere.  They play sports, all over the place.  Every day.  They need someone to take them, to watch their games and practices, to support and guide them in pursuit of their goals and dreams.  They eat.  A LOT!  They grow, fast and furious and we're shopping more than I thought I ever would with and for the boys, who, incidentally, are pretty picky about their clothes!

It's hard.  Quite possibly harder than three kids under 4!  OK, maybe just different.  But by no means has it gotten easier or less demanding of my time, energy or parental supervision.  I dare say I slept more then!

Guess what.  I gave up the dream.  The stay at home mom one.  I gave up the dream of un or home schooling.  Of being the mom that keeps a clean house.  That is a good cook.  That isn't frazzled because of time management struggles.  Who gets to have some 'me' time as well as good quality family time.  Not because I wanted to, but because it was what I had to do at the time and unfortunately, still have to do.  I gave up my dream job, at least temporarily, because the reality is it just doesn't pay the bills.  I put the book(s) on the back burner.  They will be written, when the time is right.  I hope I live that long...

So my house is far from pristine.  I don't cook often or well and I hate that we don't eat together or more healthfully more often.  I am not put together and as organized as I'd like to be.  I get up with the sun and do house related work until I must motivate them, then I go to work.  I come home and throw food at them or we eat in the car on the way to soccer.  We get home at or after sun set and I work some more.  On average, I get about 5 hours of sleep before I do it all again.

Parenting is daunting at times.  Overwhelming but infinitely rewarding.  Our children are our greatest teachers.  I stress about the house, the food, the pile of things to do on my desk and the fact I rarely get any down time.  It's stressful to manage their schedules and activities.  It's expensive financially and in time involved.

Yes, it's a choice.  At the end of the day.  If this were my last day on earth, I want it to be spent with my kids watching them grow, learn and be proud of who they are and what they've become.  Perhaps it's a gift in disguise.  If I sit at a soccer game or practice, I'm actually sitting.  Watching them.  With pride.  Or talking to other grown ups!  I'm not working (OK, usually), I'm not cleaning, I'm not cooking.   I'm being mom.

So I have a new dream.  The one where they look back in a few (hopefully very few) years and appreciate what I've done for them and why I chose to do it.  I'm mothering.  I'm there.  For them.  They know it.  They watch.  They ask.  They quiz me to see if I was paying attention.  It's important to them.  It's like snuggling them when they were little.  It's just a different kind of snuggle.  Like the head butt I get now instead of a hug from the 13 year old.  It still means I love you.  Just, I'm too cool to say it.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  It means love.  And as they get older, they appreciate the self-sacrifice I make (because I do tell them on occasion) in order for them to participate in these things.

Time is love.  Time is more important than material things.  Time may be the thing they remember when they have their own kids.  How much it meant for a parent to take the time to truly be with and support their child.    They remember when you're not there for them,and it hurts them.  They also remember when you are there for them, and they appreciate, cherish and need that.

So no, I'm not the best  mom ever.  I'm not a SAHM and I send my kids to public school.  It wasn't the dream, but it's working out OK.  They aren't so bad!  They are learning and growing and they still talk to me, we still laugh and have fun.  I can only hope with all my heart that they still turn out to be the well rounded, sweet, loving, fair and compassionate beings I intended for them to be.  What more could any parent dream of or ask for?

So maybe I'm not supermom.  Could I be a super mom just the same?  Quick!  Someone make me a cape!  I need it.  I need some super powers to get me through the next few years, hell, to get me through tomorrow! Or, maybe I could fashion it into a pillow or blanket.

This mom, super or not, is super tired.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Truth or Dare?

Truth as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:  
Definition of TRUTH

a archaic : fidelityconstancyb : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
(1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual realityb : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true <truths of thermodynamics>c : the body of true statements and propositions
a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or realityb chiefly British : true 2c : fidelity to an original or to a standard

I've been on this planet for 42 years.  It's been quite the journey.  I've had many life experiences one shouldn't have to have.  I've had many wonderful experiences.  Challenges abound.  Opportunities to choose  truth/honesty or fear/avoiding truth present themselves every day, if not every hour and minute. 

One of the things that intrigues me is human nature.  In an attempt to become more aware of my own actions and motivations, I've become keenly aware of certain traits and trends.  Two in particular are the concepts of choice and truth or honesty. 

It seems, one of the greatest challenges is the ability to be truthful.  People have a difficult time owning their own truth.  Standing up for what they believe in.  Communicating how they really feel.  Doing so without making it about someone else.  Without the blame game.  The world is full of victim consciousness.  No one seems willing or able to accept responsibility for their choices.  Not even the leaders of the world!  Why would they?  It's so much easier to blame it on someone or something else.  Admitting a wrong, a mistake or something that could hurt the feelings of someone else, even if it could ultimately help them is just too far out of the comfort zone for many. We, as humans, don't want to look 'bad'.  We don't want people to think ill of us.  We want to be loved and liked by everyone.  We don't want to lose our jobs, our friends our family our reputation...  But have we truly earned it in the first place?

Still others admit to themselves and perhaps a small circle of close friends or family how they really feel, but swear them to secrecy or spin a web of lies or omissions of fact or truth to avoid uncomfortable consequences.  It's nothing but self-serving.  We'll save the seven deadly sins for next time...

There are countless others who choose to ignore the truth, because confronting it means hard and difficult work.  If things are 'ok', why change it?  Why rock the boat?  Thinking of the many people I know who are in marriages or jobs they don't want to be in, but are afraid of the consequences of saying so without considering (or wrongly assuming they know) the impact of their choices on other people involved alone boggle the mind.  No one gave us the right to make decisions for other people that are not our minor offspring.  Just because we *think* they should or shouldn't know this or that, doesn't mean we have the right to withhold information.  There is always another side to a story. 

Poll:  How many people think omitting facts is the moral equivalent of lying?  "Oh, we just went out for a few beers after work" (omitting the fact it was you and someone of the opposite sex that happened to canoodle, too) or perhaps a more benign, "Oh, we've got a conflict so we can't attend the party", when there is no conflict at all, you just don't want to go because you can't stand so and so who is going to be there but are uncomfortable saying so. 

What are we afraid of?  Of being wrong?  Of admitting we made a bad choice?  That people won't like us?  (ding, ding, ding!!!) We will hurt someone's feelings?  That we will lose friends?  That we'll lose our job?  Our money?  Our stuff? Our significant other/spouse will leave us?  Our friends, family or community won't support us any longer?  It's our egos.  They are fragile.  We don't want to be 'that' person.  

News flash.  We all are 'that' person.  

Maybe on some level, we're afraid of being successful!  It's hard work to be successful.  It's work to be responsible and own something.  It's stressful.  It can be socially and financially expensive.  We can much more easily blame someone else (so and so who didn't work hard enough or late enough or quit and killed our company) or something else, say, the economy, for our failure.  Many people don't bother to try, because they might fail.  The thing is, failure is not all bad.  Failure presents a wonderful opportunity for learning, growth and change.  Like a phoenix from the ashes, the greatest gifts can come from the worst of circumstances. 

Or, maybe, we're afraid of having to do the work that comes with recognizing, speaking, living and owning our own truth.  Because it's work.  Hard work.  Trust me.  I know.  It's a life long journey.  It won't win you many popularity contests.  It may win you inner peace and joy and a life without regrets.  You might die satisfied you've lived your best life.  Not many people can say that.  I've been there at the end of life for many people, most lament what they wish they'd said and done, no matter how old they are on their death bed. 

Since I was a child, I've had a knack for speaking my mind.  It usually gets me into trouble.  "Kimberly! You don't talk to your parents/grandparents/friends that way!"  "Why did you say that?!  No good can come of it!"  I've used my voice to educate and for the greater good.  As an adult, the ability and desire to speak my truth has brought me tremendous gifts and opportunities as well as profound losses.  I have no regrets.

I've also been on the other side of the equation, "Please don't tell X about this..."  I've been the person everything was blamed on.  I still am.  I've been the truthful and honest one and I've ended up blamed, hurt and lost good friends and family members as a result of someone else's dishonesty and inability to accept/see/own the truth as well as for my own honesty with them.  

Did it hurt?  Sure.  Does it still hurt, years later?  Hell, yes.  Did I do the right thing?  Absofuckinlutely.  Do people agree with me?  No, of course not.  Not everyone.  I don't expect them to.  It's not about them.  It's about me.  I own it.  I'm OK with it.  I've grown tremendously as a person and a spiritual being.  I've learned from my mistakes and made positive change.  Not everyone is able or willing to do that or to come along for the ride with me.  That's OK.  It doesn't matter.  It is really all about my journey.  I need to live with myself every day.  If I can't be true to myself, to my heart, my mind and my spirit, how the hell can I be truthful with anyone else?  It starts with you. 

The thing is, there is nothing wrong with being truthful.  Yes, the truth can hurt.  But if it's the truth, it can also help.  Tremendously.  Truth is often a catalyst for positive change.  You can't control how someone will react.  That's not your mission, it's theirs.  Lying to them, being dishonest, withholding information for your own selfish gain is potentially far more hurtful to them in the long run.  As we've seen played out in the media over and over, eventually, the truth will come out.  

YOUR role is to know your own truth.  To embrace it and be proud of it.  To speak it.  To live it.  To honor it.  Like everything in life, it's about choice.  We make choices every second of every day about all manner of things from the minor to the profoundly life altering.  Make your choices conscious and true to your soul.  Make them informed.  Never assume.  Make them for you.  Choose love and light, not fear and darkness.

I dare you to take a close look at your life, your work, your friends, your family and your relationships.  Are you happy?  Really, really happy?  If not, why not?  If you are, why?  Are you being honest with yourself?  With them?  Do you know what your truth is?  Do you speak it freely and comfortably?  Do you own it?  Why or why not?  Are you happy in your job?  With your relationships?  Are you honest in them?  What are you teaching your children about truth and honesty both in words and action?  Really.  Have you thought about it?  They are damn smart.  They notice everything.

So play with me.  Truth or Dare?  I dare you to spend the next 24 hours being completely truthful with yourself and everyone you interact with and about every topic of conversation that comes up.  

As FDR said so eloquently, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why I love my Fitbit!

I am in love.  I've re-awakened my inner organizational goddess.  The one that likes pretty tools that give instant feedback.  It goes along with my quest to better myself and my health.  It's all because of this little gadget called a fitbit.

Have you heard of the Fitbit?  Perhaps you already have one.  Do you love yours?  I love mine.  It has given me a wealth of information that I use to gauge my health.  It is a little motivator in the most surprising of ways.    

It's helped my awareness on many levels.  I am more conscious of what I eat and inputting the nutritional content of the foods I eat has been eye opening on some levels for both good and not so good!  It has helped me understand my eating habits and how high fat but low glycemic my diet is.  Understanding how many or how few calories certain foods have and certain activities burn has been helpful.  Seeing how efficient (or not) my sleep is and what patterns I have that I am unaware of has also been quite interesting.  Having an easy way to track my blood pressure and HR, especially because I have issues with both, is a bonus.  Wanting to achieve 20 flights of stairs a day (which I surprisingly do easily most days), 10,000 steps (not as easy) or 5 miles a day encourages me to do a little extra to reach them.

I've had mine about two weeks.  I had heard about it through friends who raved about it.  I thought it was rather expensive for a glorified pedometer.  I didn't get the fascination with it.  Then I did some research.  I pondered how it could be a useful tool in many ways.  I succumbed to peer pressure in a way. I one clicked my way to giddiness thanks to Amazon.com.

It arrived on a Tuesday afternoon.  I charged it and put it on right before I went to a 45 minute Viennese Waltz lesson.  I looked at it after my lesson.  I'd danced a mile!  Wow!

Over the next week, I played with it's features.  I am hooked and fascinated!  It displays a greeting, #steps taken, #flights of stairs climbed, # calories burned (including basic metabolic based on your height and weight), # miles traveled on foot and has a flower feedback display (the flower grows the more active you are).  At a 2.5 hour dance party it recorded nearly 7000 steps and nearly 4 miles of dancing!  There is a mobile app so you can input on the fly but it will only sync data when it's near your computer.

The really cool part is the dashboard you get when it syncs with the computer, also accessible via the mobile app but only with the most recently synced data.  It's easy to navigate and allows you to add more data.  You can track calories and nutritional content of the foods you eat and # glasses of water consumed.  You can track your weight and # calories consumed vs. recommended 'allowance' based on your height and weight or weight loss/gain goal.  You can track your blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels if you are diabetic.  You can also input any other activities you do from house cleaning to running to specific exercises, how long and when you did them and it calculates the 'bonus' calories for you.  There is also a journal feature that I haven't tried yet.

One of the really cool things is you can wear it at night, in a wrist band that is very comfortable and you input when you went to bed and when you got up and it tells you how long it took you to fall asleep, how active you were during the night with what time and for how long you were awake or moving and total number of hours/minutes slept vs time in bed.  It provides graphical representations of many of these things for the day and over time so you can easily see trends.  It gives you weekly averages.  You can share certain info with friends who also use a fitbit.

My only complaint is that it's not waterproof!

If you are not familiar, or want to learn more, visit www.fitbit.com.  It's a little clip that you can wear on your waistband, pocket or I prefer mine on my bra.  Secure and less likely to get forgotten or lost that way!  I know many people who've lost theirs wearing them on their waistband or clipped on a pocket of their pants.  If you don't have one, I highly recommend them!  They are a great tracking tool and feedback device and quite motivating.  Maybe put it on your birthday/holiday wish list!

If you do have one, I'm curious what led you to get it, how you like it and what features you find most useful and why.

Hooray for the little things and for anything that gets people moving and making more conscious choices!  Go fitbit! :-)

Advice to politicians (or anyone else), here's how to piss me off. Oh, wait. You already do that!

I hate election years.  I hate dishonesty.  I hate victim consciousness.  I hate passivity.  I hate bullying.

I'm not a political guru.  I don't engage in political banter as a rule.  It's like religion.  Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and I'm cool with that.  Respect and tolerance are core values.  Just don't shove any of it down my throat.  I'm an adult and am fully capable of making my own decisions, thank you.  I do however, have a strong believe in core values like truth and honesty and working for the highest good.

I don't watch much TV, really just the news, and on a local cable news station at that.  I don't listen to many radio talk shows.  This is as much a personal choice as it is I simply don't have the time in my life to do it.  I do read the news on the internet, follow my favorite sources on Twitter and Facebook and of course, there is e-mail.  I do watch and listen enough to get annoyed.  I know I'm not hearing all the political ads.  The few I do tend to disappoint and appall me.

What I hate most is the negativity.  The blame game.  The skewing of the truth/root cause or ignorance of it.  The absurd amount of time and money spent on telling everyone what the other person failed to do as if they were the unilateral decision maker and did so with the intent of screwing with the people of this country.  There is an entire Congress that is involved in decision making!  There is the fact the administrations prior made some decisions that led us to where we are.  There is the fact we can't control what happens in the rest of the world, despite the fact we seem to think we can, and should.  It's reminiscent of a toddler's egocentricity and belief they are right, everyone else is wrong and the world does and should revolve around them.  It's mine, all mine.  I'm right.  You are wrong.  End of story.

I don't want to know what's wrong with the other guy.  I want to know what YOU are going to do, how exactly you are going to do it and when.  I don't want empty promises that you have no idea if you can execute because you need the support of Congress.  I want honesty.  I don't want biased news reporting or opinion.  I want facts.  I want evidence of those 'facts'.  I don't care what your wife, kids, friends, news organizations or unions or other famous people think.  I want to know how YOU are going to work with the Congress whose political slant and make up is not yet known, to make the life of myself and my children and grandchildren better.  Right here.  In the USA.  Somewhere along the line, it seems the constituents, the real people (read the ones who don't have gazillions of dollars to donate or time to watch all the political ads and talk shows because they work 3 jobs to feed their families), the ones they are supposed to represent became 'the people with the most money'.  Does this really happen?  It seems the ones who have all the money and convince the people that the other guy is 'bad' by way of bad mouthing them essentially elect the leaders of this country.  Is this what our founding fathers intended?  I think not.

My latest annoyance is the emails begging for money.  The idea that he who has the most funds in their campaign war chest will win.  Is this true?  If so, I think I will throw up.  I don't want to live in that world.  Money can't buy love or happiness, this I know for a fact.  It shouldn't buy votes.  It shouldn't buy the privilege and honor of holding the highest office in our country, of being given the right to make the decisions that impact the lives of millions of people from all cross sections of life quite possibly for the rest of their lives.  It shouldn't be he with the most money wins.  I thought it was about the people and the issues of the people!  Not about winning at all costs because we hate or disagree with the other 'guy' so much.  Especially when their guy's choices led to where we are now.  Rome wasn't built in 3 years.  I'm not just speaking of the Bush-Obama issue, this is true of every Presidential and local political election I've ever been exposed to.  It just gets worse each cycle because of the technology available.

I recently donated to the Obama campaign.  Although an independent, I support Obama and most of the Democratic ideals.  My fiance is a huge fan and would absolutely love the opportunity to meet him.  I donated both in support of the President and in an attempt to 'win' dinner with the President for my man.  Know, I didn't donate just for the contest, but it was a bonus possibility.

What I was shocked to discover was that after the 'thanks for donating' email, I get several a week, asking for more money ($3 or more), telling me how much was donated to the Romney campaign and how desperately they need more donations to keep up or they'll lose the election.  Seriously?  Seriously??  The President of the United States' Campaign manager thinks it a good idea to beg for money?  I don't subscribe to Romney's campaign, do they do the same thing?  Is it about the money?!

Dude, you just officially pissed me off.  Hard selling does NOT work with me.  It is a huge turn off.  I am an adult.  I can make decisions.  Peer pressure doesn't work with me.  I'm aware you want donations.  I gave you what I could.  Be grateful.  Maybe send an email every few weeks focused on an issue and an appeal for donations along with it.  Maybe ask me to do something non-monetarily to help the campaign instead in a "How you can help" email, rather then all of them being about 'without your money, the President could lose because Romney is kicking our fundraising ass'.  Focus your efforts on the issues and getting to the people who don't have the money.  THAT is what will get you re-elected.  Don't go to the places you already know you have support, or don't focus only on those places. Go to the people.  The real people.

I know I can unsubscribe from the email list and Twitter feed, and probably will.  At least one of the Twitter feeds does concentrate on issues at hand.  The reality is, I already know what political ideals I agree with.  I already know who I will vote for.  No amount of negative campaigning, appeals for money, news story or otherwise will change my opinion.  I am appalled at the way campaigns are allowed to run in this country.  That grown men and women behave like spoiled children.  That they believe that the one with the most money and able to spin the worst story about the other guy wins and make themselves look amazing without acknowledging running this country is a TEAM effort.  That we allow it to happen this way.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if there were fundraising caps set at a reasonable level, or somehow money spent on campaigns had to be equal and reasonable.  What if there was no negativity allowed?  What if they couldn't say anything about the other person in a negative way?  What if they had to say what they agreed with the other person on or what qualities they admired in them?  What if it had to be all about them?  What if they had to do it the old fashioned way, DRIVING around the country talking to the REAL EVERYDAY PEOPLE?  What if the media only reported facts?  Who was where and what did they say?  What if the media interviewed the constituents rather than the candidates every day?  What if debates were really debates, rather than elaborately produced prime time televised events that tend to evoke drama and bickering like children?  What if the audiences were real people, picked by lottery, because they wanted to be there, not because they wanted to be on TV or because they donated?

I think what it comes down to is I hate dishonesty.  I hate victim consciousness.  I hate the fact that the leader of the free world and potential successors behave like children, often spoiled children and it works!  How do we teach our children core values and tolerance, respect and owning our mistakes when our leaders don't model that behavior?

It's sad and disappointing.  I hope it changes.  For the better.  I can't say I'm optimistic.  And no, no one is getting any more of my money.  You'll have to win this campaign on your own heart, truth and by addressing the issues to the people.  May the BEST man win, not the one who spins the best story and has the most money and friends in high places. Who you live with or marry, what you do with your own body has nothing to do with running this country.  How will you deal with the economy, the world issues, health care, the fucked up circus that is our Government?

May the people of this country elect the person they feel can do the best job based on the facts.  May those facts come to light, in truth and honesty and full disclosure.

May the world find peace and stability.  May core values make a rousing comeback.  Somehow.  Someway.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Calendars. Friend or Foe?

I am an organized person.  I always have been, despite what my mother says.  I love calendars.  Pretty ones.  Practical ones.  Small ones.  Pocket ones.  My Google one!  I love having a place for everything and everything in it's place, especially if that place is also decorative.  Containorgasmic, I mean, the Container Store, is mecca.

My house used to be clean, neat and organized.  My car used to be pristine.  I made my bed every day.  I took pride in how things were placed and arranged and I changed it up fairly often to keep it fresh and new. There was no clutter.  I dusted and vacuumed regularly and enjoyed it!  Laundry was washed, dried, folded and put away immediately.  My calendar was easy to read and planned well in advance with room for last minute activities.   I had time to go to the gym, to shop, to hang out with friends, to read a book.  All while working full time!

Then, I had kids.  It took a bit of adjusting after the first one, but I got it down.  I became a SAHM, that certainly helped.  We got around.  The house was still neat and clean, but with kid stuff around.  We traveled, we shopped, we had play dates and we even entertained.  I got to see my friends and family often. I pursued a second part-time career (that included a fair amount of studying and time management) and my house, car and life were still neat, organized and manageable.  My calendar was imperative.

Then I had twins.  OK, I admit.  Priorities changed.  Because they had to.  I couldn't manage two babies and a barely 3 year old and be a domestic goddess.  Trying got me no where but depressed and sleep deprived. My kids were my world.  They demanded and received 110% of my attention.  There was no more calendar, I had no time to write on it nor any time without a baby in my hand even if I wanted to.  Hell, I barely knew what day or time it was for months and didn't care.  We did far less and whatever we did took so much time and pre-planning that it didn't warrant attempting more than one thing in a day, let alone in a week save for taking the big brother to pre-school three times a week.  I self-sacrificed.  I was far less organized.  I didn't get out much.  THEY were my workout!  I had to ask for and receive help.  It was a difficult lesson to learn, but I survived thanks to the generosity and kindness of friends, family and neighbors.  I learned the dishes are far less important than mothering my beautiful babies. Eventually, I started to get my organizational groove back, about the time the twins turned 3.  I was finally feeling like I was close to my pre-kids calendar and domestic management.

Then, one of the twins, my daughter, died.  Tragically and unexpectedly.  The week before Christmas.  I didn't give a flying f@ck about anything anymore.  The house could dissolve in squalor for all I cared.  It didn't.  Thanks again to the amazing kindness and generosity of friends and family and even strangers.  They ran my calendar.  They did my to-do list.  They cooked and cleaned and shopped.  They hired  a housekeeper.  Eventually, I began to participate in life again, with the help of a therapist, the aforementioned friends, family and neighbors and my desire to heal.  I began to write, plan and organize bit by bit.

And then, a year after her death, my husband and I separated and spent 2.5 years in a contentious divorce.  I was grieving.  I was hurting.  I was suddenly a single mother (well, the reality was I'd always been a single mother who happened to be married).  My organizational skills kicked back in.  Getting divorced and raising two kids while grieving the death of another is more than a 24/7 existence.  I eventually went back to work, first part time and then full time once they were in full day school.  I juggled being a PT, a childbirth educator, a doula and a CPR instructor.  I managed the daycare arrangements, the extracurricular activities like town soccer and scouts, play dates, appointments and the day to day household needs.  My house was clean, neat and organized again.  I made an effort to go to the gym or to yoga at least twice a week.  I went grocery shopping!  I even began to date, when they were with their father.

Fast forward a few years to today.  I looked at my calendar for the month of July.  This past week, because of the holiday, has been such a treat!  The next two weeks fill me with anxiety and stress and make me want to cry.  Literally.  I work full time in a job that is unpredictable in terms of "do this now" but when it's now, it's really now, not in an hour.  I'm on call until 7:30 every night.  Although somewhat flexible, I still need to get in my 8 hrs/day.  I worked nearly an 11 hour day yesterday by way of example.  Other days, it might be 6 or 8.  I never know.

The next two weeks, I have the following schedule for the kids only.  My work is 8-5.
-I get up at 5:30 to exercise, have a half hour of peace and rally/prepare children for the day
-8:10 am- leave house
-8:30 am drop one off at camp in W. Boylston
-10am, drop other one at different camp 1/2 hour from home
-3pm pick up the second one from camp and bring him home
-4:30 pm, pick up first one from camp and bring him home
-5pm leave for soccer game (or practice) 30- 45 min away for second one (or both) - it is possible that they will both have soccer practices/games at different places at the same time
-8ish pm arrive home
9pm- do whatever work I can that didn't get done from earlier in the day

I ask you this, when will I get my work done?  When will they eat?  How will I get anything done around the house?  How can I be in two places at once?  How can I do my job when I'm driving all over creation for approximately 3 hours every day just for them?!  How will I not lose what's left of my mind?

It doesn't get better the rest of the year.  I work every day.  The kids have something every single night, usually soccer.  They will have soccer games every Sunday.  Tournaments nearly every long weekend.  The one night a week they are with their father, I have a 2 hour dance lesson because that's the only time we can do it. It's the only thing I do for me.  I can't even do it as often as I'd like because many of the classes and practice sessions compete with the boys' soccer.  I stay up way too late or get up with the sun to do things like answer email, pay bills and wedding related tasks because it's the only time I have.  Good thing I know how to function in a sleep-deprived state.  Once they start school, I also have homework supervision and project management for my ADD high school freshman and figuring out how to deal with after-school activities and no late bus.

I know, you are thinking one of two things.  Get help or tell the boys they can't play soccer.  Right.  Well, I'm a mother.  The boys need to get exercise, learn to be part of a team, manage school and a sport and they love it and have tremendous potential.  Not to mention, they are both playing for premier teams that I paid a small fortune for and they and I are now in a full year commitment.  I knew this.  They are at critical periods in their growth and development as well as their educational future.  I want to encourage socialization, participation in extracurricular activities, good organizational skills for them.

For the record, I have asked for help.  From their father and step-mother (who does not work and has a 4 month old adopted baby girl).  I got a wishy-washy 'we'll see what we can do' after asking multiple times.  I ask my fiance to help on occasion, mostly when I know I've got a work commitment or appointment that I really need to attend.  But he works 9:30-7 and doesn't wish to nor should he have to rearrange his schedule to accommodate MY kids.  He is great and helps around the house and offers to do other things like shopping and it's greatly appreciated.  He is a fantastic step-dad and attends to them in a beautiful way from a guidance and supportive standpoint.   It's all helpful, but not enough to give me a sense of control or sanity. I don't know enough people on the older boy's soccer team to ask for rides.  The younger one I could get help transporting if I need it on occasion. They both want me there, of course.

The stress of seeing how much needs to be done, knowing I'm the only one that has committed to doing it (and paid for it), wanting to do the right thing by my kids and being worried I can't do or could literally lose my job over this summer schedule is making me crazy.  

It's a double-edged sword.  On one hand, the calendar is a life, week, day at a glance look at who needs to be where when.  It's a great planning tool.  I use the Google calendar and there are many colors and entries on it every day!  I have lists and post-it's everywhere.  So far, I've not forgotten anything.

On the other hand, it's a huge source of stress for the above mentioned reasons.  To see 6 things per day, some in direct conflict in time and place that make it logistically impossible to manage almost defeats the purpose of the calendar in the first place.  It's supposed to be a tool for planning, not stress.

Yes, I created this bed and now I'm lying in it.  I don't expect any of you to have an answer, although misery loves company, so feel free to weep with me!  If you do have any ideas for other time management tools out there, I'd love to hear about them.  What I really need is to not work full time.  That, of course, is not an option.  Are there other jobs out there?  Sure.  Will they afford me the same salary, benefits and flexibility as the one I have now?  Not likely.

I thought the kids were more demanding when they were young.  Turns out the older they get, the more time consuming and difficult they are to manage on every level.  I totally get why parents can't wait for their kids to be able to drive on their own.  I may not survive long enough to see that day...

They have chocolate in the soft walled rooms, right?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How dare you f@ck with my health? How does "pure" + "natural" = toxic soup? That be funny and potentially dangerous math.

Disclaimer: I am an idealist.  I want everybody to do the 'right' thing.  To make choices not only for the greater good of themselves, but of those who inhabit this planet with us and mother earth herself.

Important facts to know:
  1. I've spent nearly my entire adolescent and adult life in health care in some way.  I've worked in nearly every health care setting there is as a clinician.  I've seen a LOT.  It would scare the pants right off you.  
  2. I have personal experience with the impact of certain foods, chemicals, and poor choices on health and well-being.  
    1. Most specifically I have a child who most definitely reacts behaviorally and in a very strong, negative and sometimes downright dangerous to others way to certain foods, particularly artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and gluten, milk protein and artificial sweeteners.  This was what catalyzed my foray into label reading and self-education about what is in our food.  Avoiding these products is not difficult once you learn how and the difference in his personality and behavior is nothing short of amazing.  
    2. Secondly, I have another child who had tremendous food allergies, several anaphylactic and many more food and chemical sensitivities and as a result, health issues, until I learned what to avoid and where to find food and products he could use without reactions.  I had to learn a whole new way to shop and cook.  I had to eliminate pretty much everything that came in a box for convenience.  I learned to read labels.  It forced an awakening that has benefited our entire family.
    3. I have a family member who is so sensitive to aerosoled chemicals (perfumes, room spray, household cleaning products) she has an asthma attack so severe she loses her voice, can't breathe and ends up in the ER.  It gets worse every time.  
    4. I've noticed my own reactions to foods and chemical additives over the years. Physically, emotionally and behaviorally. You will too, if you pay attention.
    5. I've seen with my own eyes how making the 'right' choices can directly impact health and well-being.  Over and over and over.
  3. There is a tremendous amount of information available through electronic means.  If you want to learn more about this forthcoming rant, I strongly encourage you to visit http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and http://www.ewg.org/ to see for yourself how potentially toxic or carcinogenic your personal care products are and what better choices are
  4. Choosing truly 'good for you' and the planet, non-toxic products is more expensive and they are much harder to find.  
  5. Everything happens for a reason.  You don't *just* get a headache or GI upset.  Something caused it.  That something is likely something you ate or used on or near your body.  
Now, for my rant.

I have been trying for the better part of the last decade to make healthier choices.  Both with regard to choosing food for my family and with regard to the personal care products I use.  It was catalyzed by issues brought to light through my children.  I've said many times, they are our greatest teachers.  I, like many of you, believed that terms like 'organic', 'pure' and 'natural' meant they were safe alternatives.  

I recently picked up a shampoo that had the word organic on it.  It had the word healthy on it.  It had the word natural on it.  I read the ingredients.  It was full of ingredients from the 'dirty dozen' from the EWG.  It was toxic soup!  The ingredients that were 'bad' were likely not even necessary to the products effectiveness. I was mad. 

For years, I've been attending a perinatal health conference.  I was first exposed to the Environmental Working Group's research and their Cosmetics Database several years ago at  breakout session at the conference.  They were speaking specifically about hormone disruptors in personal care products that were likely contributing to precocious puberty in girls and sterility in boys.  They spoke of the toxic soup found in the blood of children from their flame retardant pajamas, plastic bottles and soft toys and in the breast milk, tissue and blood of mothers from their personal care products.  It's not hard to extrapolate and wonder if these products are contributing to the sharp increase in cancers, infertility, auto-immune disorders and behavioral problems in adults and children.  Maybe even birth defects. Holy crap!  

I came home and plugged my personal care products into their database.  I then threw most of them away in disgust and went shopping with my dirty dozen list.  It proved much harder than I thought it would be to find truly healthier choices.  It's gotten easier over the years, but also more confusing. 

I presumed it was because the companies didn't know the danger, for surely if they did, they'd change their formulas to eliminate these toxic and potentially dangerous and damaging chemicals from their products.  To the credit of the EWG, a few companies did sign an agreement to eliminate some/all of the dangerous chemicals.  The majority have not. 

A few facts you probably don't know, from the Skin Deep Web site:
  1. Industrial chemicals are basic components of most personal care products.  These are petroleum products, pesticides, neurotoxins, known carcinogens and more.  
  2. The FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry or the ingredients it uses in it's products.
  3. There is no requirement for safety testing cosmetics.  Many companies who do test, do so on animals in the cruelest of ways.  
  4. Many EU countries have banned these chemical ingredients because of the research that supports they are unsafe, neurotoxic or carcinogenic.  The same can be said for food additives like artificial colors and flavors.  THE SAME COMPANIES that make the 'free of' products for the EU, make the toxic versions in the US, because they can.  
  5. By way of an example because it's summer.  Oxybenzone is an ingredient in 60% of sunscreens and is a known hormone disruptor readily absorbed through the skin.  
The very thing you use to prevent cancer could quite possibly be causing it!  This infuriates me.  Not only do most people not know this, if they do, they also don't care or simply don't think it can really harm them.  Although there are few alternatives, they are very expensive and most families simply cannot afford the amount of lotion needed to protect an entire family for an entire summer or year if they live in a more southerly climate.  

Eating organic is also more difficult and expensive.  There is a reason why Whole Foods is referred to as "whole paycheck".  Purchasing products that are non-GMO, pesticide free, free from artificial hormones and other chemicals, and animal products from farms where animals are treated humanely is expensive and downright difficult.  In talking with a CSA farmer locally, although the toxic soup pesticide DDT is not allowed, the three chemicals that make up DDT can be used, one at a time.  It's a game.  The consumer doesn't know they're getting screwed.  We think we are buying healthier.  That's not always the case.  

The industry is set up to succeed.  They make money.  They market to young people and those who simply don't know better and to families who are literally living paycheck to paycheck.  Especially in this economy.  Saving every penny is a necessity.  The cheapest products are often the most toxic and dangerous.  But they are in pretty packages with vibrant, healthy people or pictures.  They use buzz words like pure, natural, organic, healthy when in reality, if you read the actual ingredients, you are buying a potentially toxic soup thinking you are doing right by your family.  

It's deceptive and downright dangerous. It's unfair.  It's unhealthy.  It's contributing to our health care crisis because all of us who've unknowingly literally  poisoned ourselves and our families over the years are getting more diseases and chronic illnesses.  We're taking more medications, that have side effects (perhaps to treat the issue caused by what we eat and use on our body) and we all know chemotherapy is toxic, too, to treat the condition that could very well have been caused by the cumulative toxins in our food and personal care products for years. Hell, even many of our vitamins and supplements are contaminated with artificial colors, fillers and potentially dangerous additives.  

I know, you don't think your headache or anxiety or depression or concentration problems are caused by anything you do or a product that you use or a food that you eat or may be a side effect of a medication you take.  I know you don't think getting cancer of some other illness will happen to you or your child.  Who does?  Maybe you don't believe that these chemicals, in such small amounts could *really* cause cancer, infertility or some other chronic illness.  It's not one time exposure to one chemical or product that likely does it.  It's the cumulative impact of many toxic chemicals over many years, likely in combination with your genetic make-up or predisposition and other choices you make in your life.  

Maybe we don't know if it truly will or not.  Clearly there is a link between many of these ingredients and potential health issues.  I ask you to consider this.  Before we had all of these chemicals as an option for our food and personal care products, the rates of cancer, infertility, autism, obesity, autoimmune disorders and many other health issues were much, much lower.  Ever wonder why???  

Have you considered the cost of making healthier choices now against the cost of health insurance, co-pays and out of pocket expenses (especially if you reach your coverage limits) and caring for yourself or a child who has a chronic or acute illness?  Drugs and treatments are expensive.  Your health insurance won't cover everything.  In the long run, it's less expensive and better for everyone to educate  yourselves and make truly informed and healthy choices now.  It's not too late to change.  

As a physical therapist, I can tell you the human body is the most amazing machine ever made.  It is truly a gift to have one that works properly and is pain free.  You must take care of it.  Inside and out.  I've seen the impact cancer has on an individual and their family.  I've seen people with multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson's disease, Guillian Barre, fibromyalgia and other auto-immune disorders watch their bodies defy them.  I've seen people who've lost limbs and had all manner of pain and internal organ dysfunction.  It sucks.  You don't want to experience any of it.  If you could do everything you could to prevent one of those things from happening to you or a loved one, wouldn't you?

Get your head out of the sand.  Let's operate on the assumption that toxic chemicals are bad for our bodies.  That's not rocket science.  Learn about what you eat and what you put on and in your body.  Go to the skin deep cosmetics database and inventory your personal care products. Read labels.  Purchase healthier products and skip the Starbucks.  With the money you save there, you could buy better food and products! Your body, your family and your friends will thank you.  They'd probably like to have you around for as long as possible.  Just ask anyone who has lost someone.  We only get one body.  Yes, what we do with it is our own choice.  Make the best one for you.

I truly hope someone learned something from my rant.  I hope I've inspired you to do a little research.  To make a change for the better not only of yourself and your family, but for the planet for many of these products also have ingredients that end up harming the environment, too.  

Happy shopping!