Honest Valentines Won’t Make You Popular

Mean_Valentine
Raise your hand if you enjoy a good popularity contest.

Really?  That’s what I thought.

No one likes to admit that they actually like popularity contests, yet we participate in them all the time!  Who gets the most thumbs-up, Yearbook superlatives, Prom King & Queen, Bachelor shows, etc, etc, etc.  There are contests like this all the time and in all sorts of forms.  Most of the time we shrug them off as entertainment or harmless.  And maybe they are.  I think it truly is part of human nature to strive to BE popular and to LIKE the popular person.  I am okay with popularity competitions, as long as the winner is the one competing.  What I hate, loathe, and despise are parent centered popularity contests.

I have a cousin who’s daughter often participates in beauty pageants.  Once she pleaded with everyone for DAYS on Facebook to go and “like” her daughter’s picture.  The child with the most “likes” would win the “Most Photogenic” category.  My cousin was hell-bent on her daughter winning.  And she did.  However, my cousin had to badger her large collection of Facebook “friends” several times a day to do it.  Persistence won that category.  But really, was her daughter the most photogenic, or was it really just a popularity contest?  It had everything to do with the popularity of the parent and how many friends they had that could be swayed to go and click on something–not how photogenic her kid was, nor even how popular the kid was!

I’ve noticed this trend at my kids’ school as well.  The kids who’s parents bring in the best cupcakes for birthday parties are the well liked kids.  The kids with the parents throwing the more lavish parties, supplying more activities in the classroom, and sending in the fanciest Valentines are the more popular kids.  Popularity via Mom & Dad’s time and money.  Shameful.  Mostly because these kids are in Kindergarten!

Now, I have to admit that I do spend a great deal of time worrying about my own kids’ popularity.  I feel silly when I do, but I don’t want them to be lonely.  As they get older, I am aware of all the crazy stuff they are going to have to go through and experience, and they are going to need shoulders other than mine to rejoice with and cry on.  And I certainly don’t want them to be bullied.  However, they are going to have to seek out their popularity on their own merit and not through fancy Mommy-made cupcakes.  Or Valentines.  I don’t believe in giving candy to five-year olds and I am not about to buy a box of bland puns on expensive cardboard so my son can attempt to win a class worth of affection.  My kids are going to make their own heart-felt sentiments.  My kids will prove their worth and gain their popularity through creativity, hard work, and honesty.

Honesty.  It turns out that that means a lot to a five-year old.  And it was honesty and creativity that kind of backfired on me.  My son made some very cute cards for all of his classmates and wrote something unique for each individual, then stuffed them in his backpack.  Thankfully I had the wherewithal to take a peek before I sent him off to school.  Sometimes honesty can be so mean!

We ended up (trying) to have a long discussion about hurting people’s feelings with words; if you don’t have something nice to say-don’t say anything at all; white lies; being a good friend and including everyone.  My son only got out of the conversation that he did something wrong and would have to re-do half of his Valentine work.  He was not pleased.  But he also didn’t understand why he had to make Valentines for students he was not friends with, for kids he flat out didn’t like.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just tell them the God’s honest truth.  A good person wouldn’t lie.  A real friend wouldn’t lie.  He couldn’t equate honesty with malice or hurt feelings.  In the end, he chose to color in a few hearts, paste a few stickers, and write nothing.

And you know what?  It kills me a little inside.  I think my five-year old was on the right track with his honest, albeit hurtful, Valentines.  At least I think so in theory.  He shouldn’t have to lie to anyone to be liked.  He shouldn’t have to include the kids he doesn’t get along with.  And he shouldn’t have to strive for popularity.  The time and money put into anything shouldn’t equate to friendships down the road and “likes” on Facebook should be worthless.  It’s about the few kids that he does like that should matter.  It’s about the nice things that automatically come to his mind when thinking about friends, not being stumped on coming up with something “good” to say about someone else.  My kid is right; Popularity is stupid.  I can relax.  He won’t be lonely since he already knows it’s about the quality of his friendships, not the quantity, and I’m sure it will be those quality friendships that will get him through anything.
Lollipops

So, on that note, I want to wish everyone an honestly happy Valentine’s Day.  Don’t feel compelled to pass out admiration or friendship to people who aren’t enhancing your life.  Be truly thankful to those friends that really matter to you, because that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

 

Daddy duty: More men choosing to put kids ahead of careers – Videos – CBS News

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/daddy-duty-more-men-choosing-to-put-kids-ahead-of-careers/
This piece by Dean Reynolds was on the Channel 3 News yesterday morning.  It peeked my interest because I am a huge fan of diversity, Progress, and blurred gender roles. However, this clip proved to be a downer filled with stereotypical gender role nonsense.

I found even the title a little jarring: “More men choosing to put kids ahead of careers.”  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think very few parents, men included, actually put their careers AHEAD of their kids.  Careers and jobs are just something that we have to do and some folks are simply unable to make all the T-ball games AND stay employed.  The fact that a parent has to work, has to take an important phone call, or has to stay late doesn’t automatically mean that work is the top priority. I think getting food into that kid’s belly is top priority and working gets that done.  Yet, when we notice a man interacting with his kid we get all warm and fuzzy inside, because, you know, it isn’t very manly.

I know the segment was meant to shed light on the growing numbers of stay at home dads and trying to normalize it, but the tone and phrasing did anything but that.  At one point the reporter states about a specific family, “she’s the bread-winner, but that’s fine.”  As if there were another option?  Would it really, ever not be fine?  What the article doesn’t focus on, which is what makes this whole “unconventional” stay at home dad thing so great, is that the numbers are rising due to the fall of sexism.  The fact that 16% of stay at home parents are fathers is absolutely wonderful because it means that there are better options for WOMEN.  Women are being paid a fairer wage now, so much so that they are now able to out-earn their husbands.  More careers have opened up to women, and more women are advancing in careers that have traditionally been male dominated.  This is great news because even just a few generations ago this wouldn’t have been possible for families, no matter how much the father may have wanted to stay home.

But they didn’t talk about that.  Instead they talked about how great it was that dads were willing to make a “commitment to parenting”, be unconventional and put their kids ahead of their careers (or themselves) and stay home with babies to do laundry, cooking, cleaning, and car pooling.  Don’t these dads just deserve a pat on the back–after all, these things are very womanly! The reporter wraps up his interview by asking the wife/mom (who works full time at a kick ass job) “Now, do you pinch yourself and think about what a great deal you’ve got here?”  And I would have to say, “Would you ask a man that?”  Has anyone ever asked a man that about his wife who stays home with his children? Or his wife who works but still finds the time and energy to take care of the house and kids?  Does this woman have a “great deal” because her children get to be cared for by a loving parent instead of being shipped off to daycare and after school programs? Does this woman have a “great deal” because the misogyny and sexism have begun to calm down so that she is no longer underpaid for the same damn job a man would do?  Or does this woman have a “great deal” because she is married to a man who is willing to be so unconventional as to take on the role and duties of a woman?

Let’s Have a F-AB-ulous February!

wpid-wp-1423149681986.jpegThat’s what it looks like outside my house right now. I am literally up to my eyeballs in snow! My picket fence is almost gone and you can’t even find my driveway.  There is no way to get to my shed that houses my Bowflex, weights, and treadmill. The path in the woods is waste deep and the shoulders on the roads are almost nonexistent.  What’s a girl to do?!

Out of safety,  I have given up on my running goals for the time being.  I’m not afraid of negative degree temps and I’m not afraid of slush.  But I am afraid of snow plows.  So, I need to find another way to keep myself in shape until I can hit the pavement again in the Spring.

Santa gave me a new bands set, and thankfully my lazy self never got them to the gym shed before the snow crashed down on us.  I also still have my trusty yoga mat in the closet, as well as some lovely videos and inspiration from the Internet.  There are a lot of options to stay healthy and get fit, even when you are under 3 feet of snow.

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My mom belly needs a bit of assistance, so the abs and core will be my target area for the month of February…or as I’m going to call it, FABruary!

I’ll be using this lovely calendar from the DailyHiit Blog:
FABulous February Daily HiitI will be following my crunches with the 21 Day Bands Workout from Perfect Online using these puppies: wpid-wp-1423149702663.jpegAND, I will be ending my day with a video from the Ripped Page on Facebook.  She posts a new awesome workout video almost every day, so there is something new all the time.  And they are easy to modify and do in your own living room!  Plus, she is gorgeous and I wouldn’t mind have her ripped abs – they are FABulous! wpid-wp-1423150390769.jpeg

So, if all of that doesn’t make my tummy a little tighter and burn a few calories, then I don’t know what will!  It may not be a 15 mile run, but I’m sure it will be fun and satisfying nonetheless.  And we’ll be bringing out the crop tops in March!

Procrastination is an Evil Monster

I am a writer. Or, so I’d like to think about myself,  and how my husband introduces me. But the thing is, I haven’t actually written anything aside from a few great outlines and lots of notes.  Sure, I had come close to completing my first novel years ago before my hard drive was maliciously ripped from my computer.  Since then I have found every excuse to not sit down and write.

At first I thought it was the children. I blammed them because they were noisy so I couldn’t focus. They were little and needed attention with toilet training, reading, fixing toys, food, etc.  I kept saying, well,when they are older and a bit more independent I’ll start and just take notes for now.  But I have to admit, it really isn’t them. I mean, two of them are at school giving me three full hours and my third spends most of the time quietly playing or drawing on her own.  I know I could write around her (and I often am productive).

Then I started blaming it on the house and chores.  So easily I would get distracted by the “need” to dust, vacuum,  or fold yet another load of laundry.  Dinners would need to be planned and prepared.  Toys picked up, items arranged, windows washed, walls scrubbed, and so forth.  Even as I sat down to write this afternoon I left a blank white page to scoop up abandoned Legos.  Was I really irked by the Legos or by the lack of words on my page?

Other things are the culprit as well.  I’m always distracted by the need to go brush my teeth, or grab a glass of water, or put more food out for the cat, or check for mail, or email, or Facebook, or read just one more paragraph, or or or…

Now I’m pointing a finger my my hardware.   I have a transformer Asus tablet with keyboard, but it is old and slow, and doesn’t charge up well, and the keyboard doesn’t really work anymore.  I have a newer Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet without a keyboard (what I’m using to write this) and apparently no USB ports to add one.  I also have an Asus notebook loaded with Umbuntu.  It is ok, kinda slow in booting.  A strange layout and operating system, but maybe only because I don’t have the password and am always logged in as Guest.  Writing without an actual keyboard drives me bonkers.  It also makes my shoulder hurt (rotator cuff injury,  probably some kind of tendonitis), as well as my hands (carpel tunnel as well as arthritis).  I end up sitting hunched over, wreaking havoc on my posture, causing an array of other issues.  What I have just isn’t up to snuff.

Riiiight.  Suck it up Mazy and write already!  I decided to make an attempt by writing for 25 minutes at a time.  I figured, I could ignore all other chores, my daughter will not have a monsterous toilet attack, and I could focus for a mere 25 minutes, then go back to regular household and mom duties.  Once I got good with 25 minute blocks, I could lengthen the time or add more later.  So I downloaded a fun little tracking app with a timer and set it to go.  Theni started booting up my Asus notebook.  After 5 minutes and running bios twice,  I got to the home screen and Office opened.  Then the breaker for the living room flipped.  Space heater, lamp, and laptop instantly went out.  After trugginng to the basement to flip the breakers back and restore power, my timer was now telling me I had used up over 8 minutes of my time.  The laptop refused to reboot.  13 minutes gone.  Fired up the old Asus tablet.  No go.  Stuck on the home screen with a fun swirly emblem. “Mommy! I need to go potty!!” 22 minutes gone.  Decided to just deal with it and opened Polaris Office on the Samsung tablet,  keyboard or no keyboard,  I was going to make use of my remaining three minutes!

Nope.

Despite my resolve, I got nothing accomplished.  And now it is too late because it is 2:37pm and I need to be at the school by 3 to pick up the boys.  And then I need to go over homework, and prepare dinner, and beg for them to clean up, take showers, brush teeth, wash the dishes, mop the dining room, and set out lunch for tomorrow.  I know I could write after everyone is in bed, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

A New Mind Set for a New Year

Happy New Year!
2014 was not the best year for our family, though not the worst. I would say it was rather stagnant,  unproductive,  and fraught with stress.  That is why Hubs and I have decided to actively seek a better life for ourselves and our kids.

We have resolved to make serious changes to our financial situation.  While it won’t be fun, we are prepared to give up all the frills and cut back on as much as we can get away with to apply large chuncks to our debts and to re-build the kids’ college fund.  That means paying off two vehical loans, reducing student loans by almost a third, and settinng aside $500 for college.  It will be tough, but with planning and drive we can do it.

We have also resolved to clean up our mess! We have a lot of stuff, a lot of clutter, and yet we seem to always be wanting.  Wanting more space, wanting more furniture, wanting more storage, wanting more time.  Hubs spent a lot of the holiday break by cleaning, sorting, and arranging the basement and today we went through the living/play room.  A bookshelf was repaired (instead of replaced), storage bins were put together to contain board books and puzzels, and broken toys were discarded.  We plan to go through one room a week to honestly review each and every item we own.  Our goal is to reduce our stuff by about half.  It might not really be attainable,  however, I think that giving ourselves a whole year to do it will give us the time to make decisions and to truly evaluate what we really need and want in life.  We are also adopting an item-in-item-out policy, especially with the toys and clothes.

I personally am resolving to let go of some of my stress, bitterness, nervousness,  and general angst.  My resolution is to embrace the happy and productive person inside me.  One of the tools I’ll be using is a gift from my brother.  I was given a copy of Wreck This Journal. I think this will help me let out tension, creativity, and redefine some rules I’ve set for myself that aren’t necessarily the healthiest. I’ve also taken up keeping a daily diary once again which helps to keep me organized and grounded (bills, chores, appointments, etc), and allows me to reflect on the ordinary and mundane things in life. The last two weeks alone of writing have given me a renewed sense of purpose and worth, so it is certainly something I will continue.

Other things I’d like to get out of 2015:
Read more classic literature (at least one a month)
Run a few more road races
Maintain a garden
Paint the bedrooms

Here’s to a healthy, prosperous, and relaxing new year!

1000 Miles for 2014: December

I DID IT! Today I completed my 1000 mile challenge and with 15 days to spare. It was an exciting and sometimes challenging  task, but I am so glad that I stuck with it and got all those miles in. You’ll see me listed in the #4 spot.

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I ran a total of 1001 miles to date in a total time of 132 hours, 1 minute, and 45 seconds. That’s an average of 7:55 per mile for the entire year! Whoo hoo!
While it would be fun to up the mileage for next year’s challenge,  I will hold off until New Year’s Eve to make that decision.
Happy Running!

Turning Down the Dream

I am currently a stay-at-home, non-income-earning mom and I have been for nearly four years now.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  There were lots of reasons why I quit my “part time” job to stay home with the kids, and there have been lots of reasons why I’ve played with the idea of going back to work several times since quitting.  The biggest reason, in all areas, has been boredom.  I was bored at my job.  Financial aid at a cosmetology school was just something I never really wanted in life, so the stresses of it just stressed me out more than it should have.  And, I’ve been incredibly bored at home; washing the same loads of laundry and wiping the same snotty noses day in and day out.  My personal dreams have yet to materialize because life just keeps happening.  Sometimes I get mad at myself over it.  Sometimes I get depressed about it.  I know I made a series of choices that have lead me to where I am now, and sometimes I am dissatisfied with that.  I know I SHOULD have taken that internship when I was in college.  I SHOULD have kept in contact with a whole bunch of folks that could have helped move me along.  I SHOULD have sought jobs in the field I wanted instead of just taking the first paying gig that came along.  I SHOULD have had more confidence in doing what I loved.

While all the shoulda-woulda-couldas get me down at times, I am well aware of the fact that I can still do all of those things.  I simply have to take the imitative and put in the effort.  Most days I am willing to do that.  I know I am not so far gone that I can’t make my dreams come true…eventually.  And I know I would not have the family I have now if I had done things differently.

Not working has been good for me for the most part.  I do love being able to home-school my kids and maintain my household.  I’m less frazzled and less depressed than I was back when I was trying to do it all.  And, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to pull it off on one income…sort of.  While Hubs does make a pretty decent living, we have been battling back our debt from our younger (and stupider) days, relaying on our credit cards a little more than we’d like, and having to suck it up and pay for two vehicles at the same time (not fun).  Things aren’t dire just yet, but a second income would certainly help.  I decided rather half-heartedly to put some feelers out to see what was available for work and signed back into CareerBuilder with a revised resume.

Of course there were a lot of spammy Emails that flooded my Inbox with positions that I would never accept or were down right pyramid schemes.  But, within a week I had landed an interview for The Perfect Job.  It was for an assistant producer position at a publishing company.  Despite not having worked in publishing, I still fit the criteria, which was why I went ahead and applied.  I was flabbergasted when they called me to set up a meeting, and I was nervous in the days leading up to it.  All of those should haves kept plaguing my thoughts and squashing any self esteem that I had.  But, I’m a decent enough actor and sailed through the interview with all sorts of faux confidence.  I left the place feeling great about the interview, about the job, the company, my potential employer…I knew I would get the job, and that was why I cried on the way home.

My dream job was an hour’s drive through mostly New England back roads from my house.  That would mean committing two hours (or more depending on traffic and weather) a day, giving me at least a ten and a half hour day.  That would leave a time crunch for things like dinner, kids’ homework, chores, etc.  But I knew it could be done.  With planning and a crock pot, with my husband’s somewhat flexible hours, with (hopefully) the help of childcare it could all be covered and I’d have income to contribute AND I’d finally be working in the field I’d always wanted.  It could be done. I could have it all; the career, the family, the house…

The day after my stunning interview I went for a walk through the woods with my two year old daughter. I kept thinking about how I’d miss not being able to spend this time with her and what that might mean.  Sure, she would adjust to daycare just fine and grow up being no worse off —  or would she?  Someone else would be there to help her discover the joy of the world while I was busy plugging away at a desk.  I nearly cried for the loss of my toddler and I hadn’t even missed a thing yet!  I felt so conflicted; it was important for my daughter to see her mother be successful, productive, and happy, but it was also important for me to be there for her and to help her grow.  Would I be able to find that special balance?  I felt like I was at a junction and didn’t know which way to turn.  I wanted both things, the stay-at-home-mom life that was going so well and the new adventures of being a publisher.  I wanted things to change, I wanted to talk to adults, to make a difference and do something special.  I also wanted to stay the same, keep the routine, and be safe.  Some moments I feared not getting the job, other moments I feared getting hired.

Then came the issue of childcare.  My oldest, a Kindergartener, is in school for a full day, but my middle child, a Pre-schooler, has only a half day from noon to three and there isn’t a bus service available for him.  My oldest takes the bus to school in the mornings and they are both picked up at the same time in the afternoons.  If I needed childcare, then my middle son would have to drop out of Pre-school since there wouldn’t be a way for him to get to and from the school.  In our area, this meant that daycare would cost $110 per day for the three of them, more for the days that my oldest wouldn’t be in school like holidays or summers.  Late pick-up fees would also have to be added on at $10 per child per hour after 5pm.  There wouldn’t be a way for either Hubs or myself to get back before then, so it would be, at best $140 if we didn’t get hit with traffic or any reason to be kept at the office past 5.  The cost would sky rocket during summer vacation.

I quickly realized that between taxes, gas for the commute, and childcare, the paycheck from my dream job would be depleted before I even got to buy a latte.  I would be working to work, and possibly not break even.  It just wasn’t going to pay for me to go back to work, even if it was for a job I really, desperately wanted.

I was still conflicted about what I wanted.  I still wanted to find a way to make it work so I could take the job.  I really wanted that position with that company and I wanted to work for that woman.  I wanted to do it.  But I also wanted to be home with my children, especially my small daughter.  I wanted to wash their clothes every day and make their dinner every night.  I wanted to fight with them over showers and clean up and struggle to make everything fair.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more and I was heart broken when something as dumb as money went and made the decision for me.  Perhaps if it were closer, or paid more, or it was another time it could all fall into place, but not now.  It hurt to turn down my dream job.

I knew not taking the job would cut off potential contacts.  It would put even more of a gap in my work history and further me even more from the industry I was trying to break into.  I could sacrifice a lot and take the job to better my future prospects, but leaving my kids in the lurch seemed selfish.  I know I did the right thing by staying home and possibly looking for something part time around town, I know I can still write and publish in the future.  But doing the right thing doesn’t always take away the sting of walking away from something before you even got a chance to try.  I didn’t reach for the golden ring because it’s not my time yet and there will be more opportunities, I just have to be patient.  I’m trying to not be bitter about it because I know I will get another chance, but for this week, and until those bills are caught up, it’s going to be hard.