Monday, March 31, 2008

Would you Jump Off Too?

Remember that annoying question your parents would throw at you when you wanted to do or have something that some other kid had? Would you jump off the (insert large structure here) if everyone else did? It was annoying and had an effectiveness of 98%. It allowed our parents a philosophical alternative than the plain old "no". From where I stand, this effective parenting tool has gone the way of the dodo bird.

About three years ago, my daughter broke her wrist. While sitting in the waiting room at the specialists office I overheard a conversation between a teenage boy (probably around 13 or 14) and his mother. He spent 15 minutes badgering his mother to upgrade his cell phone plan. It would only cost $40 more per month. What was the big deal? His mother tried to explain that if they paid that extra money then his plan would be more than his parents paid for their coverage. The young lad was not to be swayed by this. He needed the extra fifty ring-tones, the text messaging, the... the... the list ran on. His mother shifted in her seat uncomfortably. Finally he brought out the big gun, "EVERYONE ELSE HAS IT". He counted his friends on his fingers as though this were incontrovertible evidence. Before we rose to meet with the doctor, I heard the poor woman mutter, "Well if everyone else has it, let me see what I can do."

Expensive and unnecessary gadgetry have spread like a tenacious stomach virus. My son, who just turned 9, is constantly telling me about kids his age or younger who regularly come to school carrying hundreds of dollars worth of electronics. How can you possibly be expected to manage the fifteen minute ride to school without your cell phone, iPod or Nintendo DS? To these kids it's like candy, it's fun for the moment but as soon as something offering more whiz and bang comes along, it's tossed aside.

I can't fault the kids in this, after all they're just kids. They will gladly attempt to get what they can. I can blame my fellow parents who choose to raise their kids gazing over their shoulders. I'm not condemning because I know how difficult it is to navigate in a culture that blast advertising at you 24 hours a day. We're constantly being brainwashed to believe the message that purchasing=love. Just because everyone else seems to be doing it, it doesn't mean that it's a good thing, despite what advertisers would like you to believe. So if everyone else were jumping off that cliff, would you?

Friday, March 28, 2008

TV Free

Television Sucks Bad

I was listening to a news story on the radio yesterday about the nervousness of television network executives on their abilty to woo back viewers after the writers' strike. What scared these well-paid executives was that people just might have found other things to do during this crisis. Other things to do! The idea of this struck horror into their hearts. I was laughing.

I grew up in a house that had more televisions than people. When I walked into a room, the first thing I did was turn on a television. My childhood memories are filled with the soundtracks of sitcom theme songs. Even after all these years the music from Happy Days or The Love Boat will intrude into my thoughts. Forty years from now I may be a little foggy on the events of my life but I'll remember the theme song to Laverne and Shirley.

I possessed all your classic symptoms of addiction. I believed I was in control. I could stop anytime. I was so far gone, I didn't even know I had a problem. If you asked me, I'd tell you with all sincerity, I really didn't watch much and could turn it off whenever the mood hit (it's just that the mood seldom hit me).

That was then and this is now. Fast forward and here I am living free of network, cable and satellite. We have a television (that's singular), it's reserved for DVDs and Playstation use. I've been free for more than four years. It feels great knowing that I exist outside the reach of these network executives who are employed to make certain that my time is their time.

Contrary to a popular held belief, you can still live a fulfilling life without tuning in to Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. I'm more informed about the state of the world and the union than I ever was while viewing the evening news. I'm no hermit. I'm familiar with the latest shows and I'm content to wait until they make it to DVD and find their way to my local library or Netflix. I can watch on my own terms and free myself from getting into the what's-on-next syndrome and wasting hours on tedious commercials. And as an aside here- people spend way too much time talking about commercials.

Right now I'm just a blip on the radar of these executives. They still have a hefty supply of viewers but I'd like to see myself as one of those early pioneers who touted such silliness as organic food, alternative energy, recycling or global warming. Maybe others will discover that having other things to do isn't such a bad thing. I guess I've started my own little revolution. Who knows maybe I'll pick up some other converts along the way. So confess do you think you could ever cut the cord? If you're living free like me drop me a line and let me know your experience (you know, the strange looks and the confusion as people try to figure out just what to say next).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Elusive Finish Line

I know it's there. Sometimes, I can even make it out clearly just ahead. Then there are days like today, when it disappears from view. I feel like a marathon runner prepared to race 26.2 miles but informed somewhere around mile 20 that the race may stretch on indefinitely. The runner plods on with all hope resting on the word "may" believing this is just some terrible mistake and there's still only 6.2 miles to go. This is what writing a novel feels like on some days.

A couple of days ago, I was coasting along. The story was moving forward. The finish line beckoned like the beam from a lighthouse on a stormy night at sea. I was going to make it; the danger of failure could be averted. Then a day like today happens and I've strayed far off course. An oppressive fog has rolled in enveloping all, I can't tell the difference between up and down. I'm lost. I'm trying to remain calm in the face of defeat. I have just encountered the force that attempts to doom me. It is toddler-who-refuses-t0-nap.

I don't ask for much. I've accepted the fact that until all my children are attending school full-time, I'll never have those eight hour writing days. I've accepted interruptions, limited time and waking when it's still dark just to have a moment alone. I could bear all this as long as I had that hour or two of blissful silence while the young man slept but then he decided to change the rules. Not only is he not taking naps but he's awaking during MY time. He's going all day without sleep and then not falling asleep until after 9pm when my mind is about as useful as a loaf of soggy bread.

I'm frustrated. I'm tempted to toss the whole darn thing into a drawer. Why not join the ranks of thousands, maybe even millions, who've admitted defeat tossing unfinished manuscripts beneath the rubble of creative aspirations. When people ask me how the writing is going or wonder if I'm still working on that same book (God, I hate this question. Is there some kind of statute of limitations on writing a novel?) instead of feeling guilty that I haven't been devoting every waking hour to writing, I can announce grandly that I've given it all up and now I'm devoting myself to Latvian folk dance or memorizing the middle names of every Speaker of the House while people nod their approval (and confirm their suspicions that I didn't really have a novel in me anyway). Just as I reach that point, I gaze up and that darn finish line glitters in the distance.

Like an addict, instead of walking away from the frustration, the obsessive desire to be writing (in the bathroom, in the car, on lines in stores, etc), I'm looking forward to my next hit. I know the little guy won't be able to hold out much longer, eventually nature will take over and he'll sleep. The moment he does, I'll grab pen and paper and seek out that writer's high. That moment when the words and the characters come together and I can practically reach out and touch my creations. It is in this moment, I know that although the crowds have gone home and no one is left cheering me on, I'll cross that finish line (despite the best efforts of Mr. No-Nap).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

StickK Update

I surpassed my goal for Week 1! I lost 4lbs in one week. This was achieved by not snacking along with my kids. It's a great start! I'm looking forward to the warm days of spring and the back-breaking labor of yard work to drop even more pounds. 4 down 30 more to go.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday- Entryway

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

We moved into our house more than four years ago and I've been planning on "doing something" with the house since then. Life, as usual, got in the way and we've been just making due. Now I've been itching to make some changes and decided to start at the beginning- the entryway.

Exhibit A: Our Bland Makeshift Entry

The layout of our house is a strange one. The entrance that everyone uses is through our kitchen which is technically not our main entrance. That entrance is through our dining room. There's a formal door and a grander entrance but the problem is that you have to pass the kitchen door before you get to the "main entrance". I thought of hanging a large sign on the kitchen door, saying "Do Not Enter" but that wouldn't work. Traffic still flows through the kitchen. Finally, I decided to stop fighting it and give in the natural flow of the house.

The mission I've accepted is to turn this bland area into an entryway that says, "Welcome" with style. The major complication is the fact that once you're inside, you're right in our narrow kitchen. This awkward space has to somehow be divided into two separate areas- entry and kitchen.

Come with me as I walk you through my plan thus far:

Once you're at the front door you will be greeted by this cast iron door mat, it's attractive

and functional. Winter's are fairly snowy (hopefully we've left that behind) and spring is muddy. An added bonus is that it's heavy enough to avoid blowing away on windy days. We've lost a couple of mats this way.

Don't worry if you weren't able to get everything off your shoes or boots because our nice rug is waiting for you. It's durable and waterproof made of polypropylene and can be wiped clean with a sponge or hosed off. A necessary piece of furniture since we have this ceramic tile that is like an ice skating rink when wet.

I'm not liking the bland white walls and considering going with a bolder color
like this red. The kitchen has two skylights and there's a lot of light during the day which can compete nicely with the bold color. I'd also use the same color to accent the door.
Seen together I think the red could work. It will force me to go bolder when we get around to the kitchen. Now let's move on.

This is a nice piece for the area right near the door. With baskets it can hold library books, mail, cellphones, keys, iPod's, etc. Perhaps it might be too tempting for my toddler not to climb.

Another much needed accoutrement is the boot tray . Let me reiterate- snow and mud for a good portion of the year.

For years I've been saying I want a no-shoes-in-the-house rule but I've been wishy-washy about doing it but now is my chance. Once you're in the house this
shoe rack awaits and a nice basket
filled with an assortment of comfortable slippers and warm socks (of course they will be hand-knit by me).

For coats and bags and for hats.

Oh and this
will be for the the dog's leash.

I have this wonderful bench from India which would be perfect under the window. It has great storage inside for scarves, gloves, hats, and snow pants. With a nice cushion it will be a wonderful place to sit and read a book.

Next to bench near the phone will be the message command center- calendar, chalkboard, and clock

I also thought a little table like this
could come in handy.

Light would be a nice addition, since it can be a bit dim in this area at night. What do you think of two of these?

My final bit of decorating would be photos and artwork. Whew! I'm exhausted after all of this. Let me know what you think. Share your entry way success or disaster stories. I'll keep you abreast of the progress.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Confessions of an Amateur

I'm a mother of three children and I have a car. This means I should be wracking up enough mileage to circumnavigate the globe (several times over) just taking them to practices and enrichment classes. Instead, I average one practice a week and an occasional weekend soccer tournament with my middle child. My daughter is considering track in the spring and my toddler has managed to figure out how to program our cell phones without the benefit of a bevy of classes which purport to increase his cognitive ability, making him ready to achieve on state assessment tests.

I was sitting in the bleachers at my son's soccer tournament this past weekend eavesdropping on the tales of logistical woe by mothers. They commiserated over not getting home before 8pm as they maneuvered through practices for soccer, basketball, karate, swimming, dance classes, and sessions with baseball trainers (this said with a note of anxiety as Little League season will be starting soon). Combine this with enrichment classes, scout meetings, religious classes, and test prep, I'm surprised these people even know where their houses are. No wonder they drive these behemoth SUV's, they're probably living in them.

I know these parents love their kids and think that by offering them the chance to experience every whim that comes into their little heads they truly believe they are providing the best advantages. Given what I've seen when a child is being dragged from one activity to the next (and I mean dragged) I am left to pause. I watched a boy around 8 or 9, stretched out on the floor of the gym on his back wailing to the heavens as his mother pulled off his shin-guards telling him they did not have time for this because he had basketball practice. It was 7:15pm. The child had been through school, drama rehearsal, soccer practice and was now heading off to basketball. My heart went out to him as he just kept wailing "Why? Why" in between sobbing fits. The embarrassed mother shook her head in annoyance and looked to other parents who offered her a sympathetic "been there" look each knowing this could be them in a fifteen minutes or less.

Like any other parent, I love seeing my kids having fun in an activity they enjoy. I love cheering from the sidelines as much as the next parent. I just can't muster the energy to spread this passion among three to four activities per child. I can't do it. I'll just never join the ranks of the professional side-line parent. I'm strictly an amateur.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stuck on StickK

I signed a contract with this morning. I heard about this website this morning while listening to Morning Edition on NPR. It was one of those moments of serendipity I love so much.

I need to lose some weight and I have been in a state of shock at the fact that I need to lose weight. For most of my adult life I have been one of those women that most women love to hate. I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. I could or could not exercise, it didn't make a difference to my weight. I didn't even own a scale until this past summer. After I had my first two kids, the weight fell off but not so with baby #3. Perhaps it's the combination of turning 40, moving out of the city where walking was a daily habit, and snacking whenever my kids snack that have slowly pushed my weight up.

I've only moved up one size in my clothing but that one size has made a huge difference in my energy level and I definitely feel twinges and aches where I never felt them before when I'm out running. I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that I need to shed this extra weight but it's been more introspection than action. This morning I stepped on the scale and I actually thought there was something wrong with my eyes. My God, the only time I've weighed this much was when I've been pregnant or just after giving birth. Something drastic was needed- in stepped to the rescue.

No, it's not some crazy diet where you only eat what sticks to the plate when the plate is turned upside down but a goal-setting contractual website. You set a goal (mine is to lose 34 pounds in 34 week). You then set a monetary price on that goal, mine is $2 per week for a total of $68 (you can set goals without the monetary incentive). If during these 34 weeks I don't reach my goal of a 1lb/week then $2 will be deducted. The money, and I shudder each time I think of it, will go to an anti-charity. I chose the NRA. Yes, if I find myself popping a couple of my moist homemade blueberry muffins into my mouth then this money will be sent to the National Rifle Association. This is not the kind of organization I choose to support with my money.

Now you can choose to send your money to a charity or make a bet with a friend or even an enemy. The idea of sending the money to charity seemed interesting but I don't believe this would offer me the kind of challenge needed to push me to drastic activity. I went for the anti-charity option and now I haven't even looked inside our snack cabinet today. I handed my toddler a mini-cupcake leftover from his brother's birthday without even thinking of popping one into my mouth.

I'm so excited I'm going to set up another contract to get me moving on the completion of my novel by my birthday (July 5), this time I'll pit myself against the global warming deniers.

What goals have you been wanting to conquer once and for all? Let me know and maybe we could all push each other a little closer to our dreams.

Monday, March 3, 2008

He's Two!! (cue the brass band)

Allow me to take the opportunity to indulge a moment here. My youngest turned two on February 28th.

Even though this is my third two year milestone, it still seems like this happened in a blur. Wasn't he accomplishing sitting up by himself just last week? Now he's two and a perpetual motion machine. Here are some photos of his little celebration:

With big sister Ally and big brother Georgie. As you can see the birthday boy decided to go sans pants for this party.

Making short work of mom's lopsided birthday cake.

Flinging chocolate cake is the best part of the whole darn thing!