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This tag is associated with 20 posts

Mamas Teach Your Children Well….

Mamas, teach your children well…

If there is one lesson I learned early in my life it was that being myself was more important that being “accepted”. I hear stories of women with friends who tear each other down and I don’t get it, because if my friends were like that they wouldn’t be my friends.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, someone is going to find fault. If you’re not pretty enough, slim enough, or smart enough. If you’re too pretty, too slim, too smart. Supermodels get picked apart as easily as the awkward girl down the street. I told a friend today that we don’t like in an accepting society, as much as we purport ourselves to be accepting. We live in a judgmental society.

When your child is picked on, I feel it’s important to explain to your child that there will always be someone who finds fault with them. Someone will always be mean. Someone will always be critical. It’s not your child’s fault that those people feel they have a right to judge. The best you can do is set an example of acceptance and tolerance and teach your children the same.

Little girls, in particular, are bombarded with messages about how they should look every day. And now I see it slowly creeping in on little boys as well. Girls should be feminine and attractive. Boys should be athletic. But now boys should be attractive too but still not quire to the degree it’s forced upon girls.

For the longest time the media would show an attractive woman married to an overweight oaf. Still does. Did you ever stop to think what the message to our children in that is? As much as I’d like to believe that it means a person should look past a person’s appearance, it doesn’t seem to be that. What it seems to be is that if you’re attractive and smart, you might be lucky enough to land an idiot. Ugh.

Where is the equally matched couple in a supportive, nurturing relationship? Haven’t seen one. It doesn’t make for good ratings.

I find fault with the media. With the stereotypes. With the belief that in life there is only “one right way” and it’s the way of the person who is criticizing you. I find fault with the belief that women have a right to pick apart other women. I find fault with men and women for making women objects. I find fault with women who accept that they are objects. I find fault with parents who don’t raise their children to respect themselves and each other.

What I don’t find fault with is the individual who does something different than I do. I’m a firm believer that there are multiple ways to get to the finish line. As long as you’re not cheating yourself or others on your way, then you can get there however you want and I’ll still respect you for finishing.

Mamas please, teach your children acceptance. Become more accepting. Become more positive. Become less focused on looks and more focused on talent and intelligence. Boost your child’s confidence in what they do well. Don’t force them to be someone else. And if they’re not accepted by someone make sure they know that there will always be times when they’re not accepted, but that it’s not on them. It’s on the people who don’t accept them.  Set a good example and they will follow your lead. You are their first role model and the one that lasts their whole life. You will be the voice in their head for decades. And because of this, you have a chance to change the world. One child at a time.

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“You Raised the Monster….”

“You raised the monster….”

I worked for two years at a company where the mom was the CEO and the son was the V.P. of Sales. That line was a common refrain when co-workers would gripe about their epic verbal assaults on each other. We had no sympathy for the CEO when her son started trying to oust her. After all, she had raised him that way. His personality didn’t sprout up overnight. He suffered from a severe case of feeling entitled, because he was spoiled his whole life. She taught him to get what he wanted, regardless of whom he had to step on to get it. And, one day, she was just one more rung on the ladder that was his climb to his own little empire.

See, here’s the truth, people. You raise your children. Your children are your responsibility. One of your main responsibilities as a parent is to provide your children with the life skills to become established adults. I’ve seen it far too often in the last decade or so, helicopter parents who can’t (or won’t) allow their children to grow up, but then complain when they don’t move their asses out of the house and become self-sufficient.

Seriously! That’s not a fail on the part of the child, it’s a failure on the part of the parent. Children need room to grow and chances to screw up (or succeed). Asking a thirteen year old to schedule a routine doctor’s appointment is (ohmigod!) reasonable. Giving a child over 5 chores is reasonable. Not commiserating with your kid when the teacher is being “mean” is a good life lesson. Mean people exist in the world, whether or not the teacher is mean is almost moot, because either way, your kid will eventually need to learn how to deal with people of all types.

You can’t cave in to every whine your child makes. You can’t do everything for them. You have to be able to recognize what your child is already capable of and take steps to build on that. You have to introduce new skills to their current set. Think of the things you handle on a daily basis as an adult and try to incorporate little life lessons that your child can benefit from.

You also can’t shield them from life. I remember when finances were bad in my house growing up. My mother and father wouldn’t hide it from me. They didn’t give me all the gory details, but they were honest about when we could and could not afford something. When I was seven I was already conscious of what things cost. I would ask for a treat at the store and my mother would set a limit (say, a dollar). I would choose something, but then I’d see something else I liked. I would be forced to choose between them. I would always choose the one that was less expensive. Usually, this resulted in numerous exchanges for lesser costing items until I settled on a dried fruit leather strip that cost $0.17.

It was a life lesson that I’ve carried into adulthood. Not just of tradeoffs, but also that you can usually find something to brighten your day when you need a “treat” that’s still well within your budget.

As I got older, I got more details. More information. What my parents shared with me changed as my capacity to understand and reason changed. I learned to ask questions; to gather as much information as I could before making a decision.  I learned the power of critical thinking. I learned the power of thinking for myself.

You have to teach your children kindness, respect for others, self-respect. You have to teach them to dream big and be accepting of different people. You have to teach them to be committed to their goals, to be strong in the face of adversity, but still considerate of all parties involved. Teach them manners and courtesy. Teach them humility and humor. Teach them to be responsible and trust worthy, but don’t raise them to be gullible. Present them with information and critical thinking skills and let them make their own decisions.

Sure, I wasn’t an ideal kid… but I was responsible. I knew what was expected of me. And I became a reliable, established, responsible adult. My parents raised me before the age of the helicopter parents and for that I am thankful.

I hope I can do half as good of a job with my son because I certainly don’t want to have to deal with a monster later on in life. It bears repeating that I don’t think you have a right to complain about where your child ends up unless you’re really certain you’re not the reason they turned out that way!

 Just another thought of the day.

 

Social Welfare – A Lesson in Perspective

I try to keep my posts lighthearted when I can. I also try to keep the subject material as non-controversial as possible. Today, however, is not one of those days. Today I would like to write about a very difficult time in my life and how grateful I was for all of the assistance I received. It’s another lesson in perspective that I hope my readers will listen to with an open mind.

I’ve taken a great sense of pride in my independence over the years. As an adult I had always supported myself, paid my bills, and, to the best of my ability, been a solid citizen. When the recession hit, I was in the process of getting laid off from a very lucrative job that I absolutely loved. Within a matter of two weeks every promising job interview I had dried up. Those positions didn’t get filled by other candidates. They simply went unfilled or the positions were eliminated. I’d been between jobs before and unemployment wasn’t ever something I wanted to stay on. It was something to tide me over until I could find another position. It never took more than a couple of months. In fact, I was so convinced that I would find a job quickly that I didn’t even apply for my unemployment until three months after I lost my job.

But 2008 was something for the record books. I applied for every single job that came up that I was qualified for, every single job that I was overqualified for, and even tossed my hat in the ring for jobs I had no chance of ever obtaining. I was averaging 100+ job applications a month. And my phone wasn’t ringing at all. When I found out I was pregnant with my darling baby boy, I contemplated terminating the pregnancy. But, being the optimist that I am, I decided that it was time in my life (I was approaching 30) and that I really wanted my child. The decision wasn’t easy. I’ve always been a believer that you shouldn’t bring a child into this world if you can’t support it. But I was willing to work at Wal-Mart if that’s what it took. (Wal-Mart never called me in for an interview either.)

My doctor helped me apply for state medical, so that I could have quality pre-natal care. And the months continued passing. My unemployment covered the basics for nearly two years, even though I constantly had to fight to get it due to a clerical error when my file was opened. I want to make it very clear that I never sat back and said “well, I’m seven months pregnant, so I should just give up on looking for a job until after the baby comes.” I have literally thousands of electronic application confirmations from those two years. I was always sure that a new job was just a week or two away. I interviewed pregnant and did my best to hide my growing belly.

I swear my son knew my concerns even before he was born, because I went into labor on a Friday night. He was born on a Saturday morning and I was back to applying to jobs on Monday. But there was nothing. Thousands of job applications with my extremely impressive resume resulted in a total of 4 interviews over two years.

State Medical was one thing to me. A perfectly acceptable social security net to bridge the gap for people who don’t have employer based coverage. But reality came really crashing in on me when my unemployment benefits were exhausted; I had no money coming in and an 8 month old baby boy at home. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed my son. He, however, had other plans. From birth he had serious latching issues. Nothing the nurses did seemed to help. I worked with him for two weeks, but he kept losing weight. There were many, many tears shed, and I felt like a failure. I pumped, but… between supplemental formula feedings and the stress I was under, there just wasn’t much to be done. So, what do you do, when your son needs specialized formula (he had milk protein intolerance) and you have no money to buy it? What do you do when there just isn’t a job to be had?

You turn to a social safety net. In my case, this was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). There was nothing else to be done. I had exhausted my financial reserves, my 401k refund, and my savings accounts. I walked into the Department of Human Services office and wanted to cry. It was the most desolate place I ever remember being in. The tenor of the office is depressing and the individuals there just have an air of being completely beaten, downtrodden. There were crying children, exhausted parents, and elderly people… everyone just looked miserable. I felt a deep, searing pain in my stomach, just being there. Oh, how the mighty fall.

The first time I used my Link (benefit) card, which was only for groceries mind you, I had to fight back the tears. The reality of my situation was just unbearable. I tried to tell myself that I paid taxes into this system for years, but it didn’t help. I felt ashamed. I felt like less of a person.

I was only on the SNAP program for two months, because a job finally came through in July 2010. It was part time, for much less than my previous salary, but it was work and it enabled me to get off the SNAP program. I was elated the first time I bought groceries with my debit card again. I felt saved. I felt human again.

I’m off public health insurance (even though I have no employer coverage so I have NO coverage) but my son still gets health care through the state. I’m grateful every day for my less than ideal job and that, somehow, I managed to retain my optimism through everything that went wrong those two years (because there’s a lot more that I’m not sharing here). And I am extremely grateful to know that there is a safety net out there for people like me. As much as I hope never to have to use it again I sleep better at night knowing that the system is there for those who need it.

The lesson in perspective is this:

If you’ve never had to utilize a social safety net, you don’t get to judge those that do. I’m sorry, but you haven’t been in their shoes. The 80’s mythology of the “welfare” recipient who drives her brand new Cadillac to the welfare office is just that – a myth. The majority of people who utilize the benefits are just like me, people who had no other option. They are people who would like to get off the benefits as soon as flipping possible. Of course, there will always be the few people who manage to game the system. But those few people aren’t the norm. I am the norm. And I can tell you firsthand just how degrading and dehumanizing that experience really was. I challenge you, any of you, who believe that I’m exaggerating, or out of the “norm” to go sit at a social services office for an hour or so and observe the degradation first hand.

After you’ve gone home and washed the lingering feel of depression and desperation off yourself, you might find that your perspective has completely changed.

Choose Hope (a nearly incoherent rambling)

"Once you choose hope, anything's possibl...

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve (Photo credit: Abby Lanes)

We are restrained by our responsibilities on a daily basis. Work. Chores. There seems to be a never-ending list of things that need to be done. There is never enough time and, often, there is a lack of patience. At the height of my frustration, at my wit’s end last year, buried under school work and the pressure of being everything to everyone while still being a good mom, my son’s father pointed out that I never seemed to be in a good mood. I came home from work grumpy, anxious to tackle my homework, and, often times, wouldn’t even have a smile for the little boy so excited to see me.

I was taking life too seriously. You know the old joke “don’t take life too seriously, no one gets out of it alive”? It has rung through my head for months now. It was a turning point in my life, this realization that I make time for all of the “responsibilities” in my life but not for the things I really needed for myself. I needed time with my son. I needed time with my son’s father. I needed time with my friends. And I needed time with myself.  

If we are lucky enough to be touched by a moment that makes us appreciate life more it is important not to let it pass us by. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve experienced a number of life changing moments the last few years. The more I experience, the more I appreciate what I have in my life. Not things. People. Moments.

Our world seems so much scarier than the world I grew up in. News outlets would have you convinced that we’re on the brink of the end. That there is nothing good left to come. I let all of this pass through me and refuse to let it touch me as much as possible. I filter everything I hear and see through a lens of “does this promote happy in my life?”. Anything that fails to meet the standard is dropped like a hot potato.

We struggle. I struggle to balance work, school, and home. My son’s father struggles with pursuing his passion and the work he was born to do with the need to contribute to the household finances. I support him in following his dream and, while it is admittedly rough sometimes, I would much rather he follow his dream than have to watch him wilt and wither in a job he hates so that we could have more money. Money, after all, is not my main concern in life. The world tells me it should be and I tell the world to stuff it where the sun don’t shine. Sure, I complain occasionally about my job. But I appreciate that I have a job that can enable our family to live comfortably while he pursues his dreams and I finish school. Our son wants for nothing. He is a happy, vibrant child who delights in the world around him.

He doesn’t care about money. While it is impossible to, as an adult, not care about money at all, I’ve adopted his belief that it certainly isn’t a majorly important factor in our lives. He moves forward, full steam ahead, and all he cares about is that Mommy or Daddy is there to kiss his boo-boo when he trips over his own feet or runs into a shoe display at a sports store (yes, he moves THAT full steam ahead).

He cares that Daddy is home with him while Mommy is at work and vice versa. He cares that we are happy. He cares that we are together.

As his parents, we care that he be happy and that we make life as fulfilling for him as possible. It can’t always be perfect, obviously, but we try to take it in stride. We have eating issues, potty training issues, sleep issues, but we are a happy family. I see no reason to disrupt that or to allow my son’s father to disrupt it by doubting the path he’s chosen career-wise. It’s one thing to change your mind, it’s another thing to allow a rough patch to change it for you.

What does any of this have to do with anything?

Probably nothing… but as I said, when you have a moment that changes your perspective in life, you need to pay attention to it. Today I had another moment that reaffirmed my Live, Laugh, Love mind set. Life is here to live and borrowing trouble gets us nowhere. Trouble will find you when it needs to, until then, leave it be.

I’ve read a lot of blogs the last few years. Some were funny. Some were sweet. Some were dumb as hell and some were witty. None of them managed to make me laugh, make me feel connected to a child I never knew, or make me cry the way this one did.

http://www.chicagonow.com/mary-tyler-mom/2011/08/gold-is-the-new-pink/

I stumbled across this blog quite by accident. I read the synopsis of Donna’s Cancer Story and wondered if I should even read it. I don’t like to set myself up for tears if I can avoid it but in that moment of hesitation I thought “if that child and her family could live it… if her mother had the strength to blog about it… I can have the fortitude to read it. To absorb it.” In other words, I could have the ability to let it touch me.

The last post in Donna’s story requests that her story be shared. So I am going to do just that.

But first I want to remind my readers, as surprising as it is that I have readers, that you only get this one life. You get to choose. You get to choose between enjoying your life and mourning it. You get to choose to be supportive of your family or negative about it because it impacts you. You get to choose to love and live and dream. You get to choose whether or not you want to be chained by your responsibilities or freed by them.

 I choose to allow my “struggles” to be minor bumps in the ride, not derailments. I choose to support those that I love. I choose to be happy with my choice to support them, even if it means I have a few “bad” days. I choose to love with all my heart, to hand out extra chances, to always have a smile for the little boy so happy to see me, and to never let a day pass without counting my blessings. I choose to honor those that are in my life as well as those who have passed. I choose to acknowledge that there is always someone out there who is having a harder time than I am. I choose to look with open eyes at the world around me and I choose to see the beauty instead of focusing on the ugliness.

I hope, my dear readers, that Donna’s story will help you gain the perspective to Choose Hope, Live until you die, and see the good in your own life. Focus on the good, dear readers, and the bad truly won’t feel so painful. Do good things for good reason, no reason, or any reason at all.

Be happy and try to make those around you happy. Make time for friends, family, and yourself; because life is more about whom we have around us than what we have around us.

I apologize if this post is more disorganized than usual… tears tend to scatter my brain just a wee bit. I supposed I could have posted just about being happy that my child is healthy. That I appreciate his tantrums more because he is able to have them. But I was already happy about all of that. I am already appreciative of how easy we have it with our son, even when he is being difficult. Donna’s story touched me more deeply than just hugging my child tighter. I have an amazing family. I have a son who is beautiful and bright. I have my son’s father, who is equally beautiful and bright. I have parents and sisters and nieces and nephews and friends whom would support me no matter what I did.

We all get lost in our own struggles from time to time. Because they are our struggles, they will never be trivial to us. We feel the struggle, the pressure, the anxiety, while we are living it. It is real and tangible to us. I would never use someone else’s struggle to minimize or negate a struggle I or someone else was feeling. But, my dears, perspective is the key word for many of my posts. You can learn from the struggles of others. You can gain perspective into your own pressure and anxiety.

I learned from this family’s experiences. I learned that relationships can endure, families can survive the unimaginable, and we can choose hope. You can learn to accept your struggle while it is occurring, is lessened or magnified by the perspective you choose to view it with. It is impacted by the attitude you approach it with and the outlook you apply to it.

In the end, when all is said and done, I hope that I have the ability to say that I approached the majority of my difficult experiences with a positive outlook and a sunny perspective. I hope that all of you can as well.

I hope. And that hope will not end because of a rough patch. That’s about all I can say. I hope that this rambling post did Donna justice in the way it was shared, but I fear that there are no words from me that could ever quite achieve such a lofty goal… and I am humbled in that knowledge.

 

It Can Always Be Worse – A lesson in perspective.

We’ve all heard the phrase “it can always be worse”. I don’t feel, however, that as Americans we really think about how privileged we really are. Every day I hear people who are deeply, deeply unhappy with what they can’t have. Very few people seem to take the time to be thankful for what they do have. One of my personal development epiphanies occurred in my teens. It was the realization that Americans are not alone in the world, despite the fact that we use up more than our fair share of the world’s resources.

That realization came with a deeper knowledge of how others in the world live and how everything in this life truly boils down to a matter of perspective. We complain (myself included) about the high price of groceries while there are millions of people in this world who lack access to balance nutrition. Our supermarkets would likely astound them. And what do we do with this abundance of food? We overeat. We are now the most obese country on the planet.

We buy bottled water despite having one of the most advanced water treatment and delivery systems in the world. We have access to fresh water every minute of every day. Turn on the faucet and there it is. No trekking to a river that people bathe and pollute with waste to obtain drinking water.

We drive everywhere. Walking is now relegated to “exercise”. Ditto for Biking. For the majority of us, walking or biking is a luxury of time as opposed to an effective means of transportation.

Arguments about our health care system aside, as imbalanced as access may be, we all have access to at least emergency care. If we are in an accident or injured we can be assured that, even if we go bankrupt from the emergency room bill, there’s a good chance we’ll survive. Because of our access to food and clean water something as simple as a cut on our foot isn’t likely to kill us. For millions of people an infected cut is a serious illness. Here we can wash it in clean water, slather on some antibacterial ointment and put a bandage on it. We have easy access to basic medical supplies.

Whether you’re living in a mansion, a studio apartment, your parent’s basement, or something in between, you have a roof over your head. Access to quality shelter is something I see people take for granted every day. Their bathroom is ugly. Their back yard isn’t big enough. They don’t have enough closet space or their kids have to share a bedroom. Do us all a favor and learn to tell yourself “I don’t like my bathroom, but I’m thankful I have one!”.

The other day I was frustrated by a slow draining bathroom sink. A bottle of Drano later and I was thankful to have a sink that actually drains again. Then I thought, “Hell, I should be thankful to have a sink. And plumbing… and running water… and a home to contain it all.” And I was.

Money is a big complaint I hear all the time. It used to be something I complained about. There never seems to be enough money. I learned something though. You can’t take it with you. You can’t take anything you buy with you, really. Yes, money provides for the roof over our heads, the running water in our sinks, and the food in our bellies. Beyond the basic necessities, everything else is gravy. You have a computer, a cell phone, an iPad, a playstation, a tv… the list goes on and on. Check out http://bonsaimovie.com/ or google microfinance loans.

The most surprising aspect of these loans is how little money people are asking for to buy seeds, or a sewing machine, or fix the roof on their homes. Many of the ones in the Bonsai People documentary are less than I pay for my monthly cell phone bill.

If you need perspective from a cuter standpoint; check out the Babies documentary. Not only is it beautifully done, but it pulls you in. You see that babies are babies the world over. They are not born to hate. They aren’t born to be greedy about material things. They don’t use material objects or money to feel better about themselves. We are born happy and loving and curious. It is only through time and experience that our priorities shift.

If you watch, make sure you watch it a second time with a more critical eye. Compare and contrast how the babies live and grow up. It might not dawn on you that there are a few scenes where how the babies are taken care of would be persecuted here in the states. But, the perspective through which you watch the babies grow up makes it all perfectly acceptable. And it should be.

The point of all of this is not to make you feel guilty. Though, if you feel guilty it is because you’ve identified something within your own life that your mind feels you should feel guilt about.

This is merely an exercise in perspective. A gentle reminder of how good you have it. What you are unhappy over many people would be thankful for. Yes, you have the right to complain, but you also have a responsibility to acknowledge everything you’re fortunate enough to have.

Approach life with enthusiasm. Be grateful for all that you have and can be because of where you were born. Protect the rights of future generations to have a happy childhood. And try to live, if even for a few moments a day, as if you were an infant. Be happy. Be loving. Be curious about the world around you. And try to maintain perspective when you’re feeling overwhelmed or unhappy. After all, It can always be worse.

Life is better with sprinkles! (Or: Let them eat cake!)

Life is about living. I’ve said this before. You only get this one life and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’ve also pointed out that any “diet” that doesn’t let you live isn’t sustainable. Well, we put that theory to the test this past week. My son’s father turned 38 (yeah, he’s old… but still cute) and you know what birthdays mean… cake and food. In large quantities, generally speaking.

It started Thursday with a fairly healthy dinner of homemade hamburgers on fabulous whole wheat buns. But then came the cake… four layers of chocolate death, overloaded with miniature chocolate chips and filled with whipped cream. Top that with buttercream icing and you have a sugar coma just waiting to happen. We all had a slice (well, everyone but the little man, who still staunchly refuses to eat anything “normal”) and as we were all sitting there settling into our food comas I asked “so, who votes I take the remainder of this cake to work tomorrow?”

There was an immediate consensus, so there was no repeat of chocolate overload in our household the next day. Friday is our usual cheat dinner day so we had pizza. I love pizza Fridays. But then Saturday… Oh lord.

I took the birthday boy (err… man) out to dinner. We hit up a highly reviewed local Brazilian steakhouse. If you’ve never been to one, let me explain. It’s all about the meat. It is meat, meat, meat, and more meat. There’s a salad bar, sure, but as yummy as the offerings there, the main attraction are the numerous gauchos walking around with various cuts of meat on spits, offering you everything from lamb, to filet, to rib eye steak. There are sausages and chicken legs and bacon wrapped goodness everywhere you look. You pay a flat rate for each diner and in return you get a little disk.

When you flip the disk to the green side, you’re swarmed by gauchos, all sweet and polite and bearing meaty death anyway you like it. Flip it to red and they leave you to stuff your face in peace.

Needless to say I warned the birthday boy to wear loose-fitting pants. After overdosing on meat we went back to my sister’s house for beer and board games. My brother-in-law is a game reviewer, so he gets all kinds of cool games to play for free (in addition to press passes to events like Comic-Con, where he meets people like William Shatner, Robert Downey Jr., and Nathan Fillion… he’s such an asshole – because he never invites me!!! LOL).

Anyway, the games are always new and interesting and we have a blast playing them. On the way back to my sister’s house though, I said to the birthday boy “ugh… you better hope she’s not planning cake or anything.” This earned a very heartfelt groan from the passenger seat.

Our little man had a blast running around with his cousin, until he tried to slide under the railing to the stairs feet first. We all had a heart attack when my niece started yelling for us. Mind you, we were only five feet away, but the stairs are around a small corner in my sister’s usually very child safe house. Thankfully, our little snot is a little too big to fit all the way through and no harm was done (unless you count our nerves being completely fried).

A reprimand for the little boy and huge hugs for the little girl and all was well again.

… and it was time for cake. Oh, the poor birthday boy.

When the night of fun and games was over my brother-in-law was packing up the cake. I adamantly told him “we are not taking that home”. There was a small fuss, but in the end I was brooking no argument.

So, we lived this past week. It’s a good thing exercising is a part of living as well and that over-indulgence only happens on occasion.

Enjoy life. Overeat once in a while. Try new restaurants. But know when to say no. Don’t take the cake home with you because if it’s in your house, you’ll eat it all.

But whatever you do, don’t skip the experiences just because you’re on a “diet”. After all, life is always better with a few sprinkles and a little icing.

Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

It’s not a “Diet”, it’s a Diet.

I’ve had people ask me why I’m going on a “diet” when I’m not overweight and have a healthy BMI. You’re fit and healthy, why change what’s obviously already working for you? Questions like this annoy me to no end, I’m going to be honest about that.

Really? Are we so focused on weight that a change in eating habits has to be a “diet”? There are many definitions for the word Diet. One of them is “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group” . In other words, the whole of everything I eat on a regular basis is my diet. It does not mean I am “on a diet” in the culturally over-utilized manner of phrase.

So here’s my answer to that question. True health is not just about weight. In fact, weight is one of the smaller factors to health in my opinion.

Oh my god. I just totally pissed off quite a large number of people, I’m sure. Whatever. Be sure to send your hate-mail to LDD@idontgiveashit.com.

There is so much more going on in our bodies to damage our health than just being overweight. It’s simple, change your diet, change your lifestyle, and your weight will likely change too. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still be way healthier than you were when you started.

Here’s a quick review of the changes I’m making to my diet.

No more refined flour, sugar, or grains. This means that if the word “enriched” or “processed” appears on the ingredient label, it stays on the grocery shelf. Real grains don’t need to be enriched because they haven’t had their nutritional value stripped from them in a chemical process. White and brown sugar is out as well. Were you aware that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added in? It’s not closer to natural than refined white sugar. Sugar substitutes are off the edible list. On the list is, honey, molasses, 100% pure maple syrup (not that Aunt Jemima HFCS crap) and maple syrup sugar. There are a few others but all sugars are to be consumed in moderation.

No more highly processed foods. This removes most prepared, boxed, canned, and frozen foods from my diet. Flash frozen fruits and veggies are okay, frozen pasta or rice dishes or entrees are not. If an item has more than 6 ingredients or more than 1 ingredient I can’t pronounce or identify as actual food or if the words Refined, polished, enriched, BHT, BHA, HFCS, MSG, Partially Hydrogenated, Aspartame, etc…  Yes, there are a lot of words to avoid. The simple way to handle this is, if a third grader can’t pronounce it, or you can’t trace it back to its natural food origins in less than 5 seconds, put it back on the shelf.

Humanely raised and slaughtered, hormone free, free range Meats, Dairy, and Eggs. This should be a no brainer. If you are a meat eater, you should be sickened by the way we treat the animals we consume. If that doesn’t bother you because “well, how is eating them humane?” first of all, get off my page because I already don’t like you. Second, think about the chemicals. Between hormones to make them grow faster, constant antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in the horrible conditions they’re forced to live in, chemicals used to treat and preserve the meat after slaughter, etc…. that’s a lot of chemicals that are held in the meat and released during cooking and into your body when you consume them. Likewise, fish should be wild caught, but keep in mind that whether wild or farmed, all fish is high in chemicals and contaminated with mercury. It’s simply a matter of science and proof of how badly we’ve harmed our environment.

More fruits and veggies, organic when necessary. I’m not rich… not even close. But I do have a good number of grocery stores and fruit markets in my area that sell a large variety of fruits and vegetables fairly cheap. I cannot afford to buy organic everything, especially with the restraints on meats and dairy. Amish chicken and free range beef, plus cage free brown eggs and hormone free milk means I have to restrict my organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen” the majority of the time. Those fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of pesticides are:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

I’m a fan of everything on that list, so I’m going to have to make some substitutes and sacrifices when money is tight. To help preserve the food I do buy (because I don’t have anywhere to compost yet and I HATE wasting food) I purchased a food saver vacuum seal machine. So far, I’m pleased with it. I might even write a review of it after I’ve used it a bit longer.

Now, why is organic, unprocessed, whole foods such a focus for me? Simple… When I was a child my father explained to me that I should never use more than one household cleaner at a time. Bleach and Ammonia emit chemical fumes and, even if you don’t mix them directly together, these fumes can linger and combine and…. Explode. My little brain was fascinated. That started my fascination with what I like to call the “joker effect”. If you remember your Batman movie mythology correctly, the line of beauty products that the Joker produced was only dangerous when two or more products were mixed together. You could use the perfume or the hairspray with no ill effects, but if you used both. Hoo Boy, bad things happened.

We have hundreds of thousands of chemicals that are used for everything from food preservation, to flavor enhancement, to pest control, etc… each of these is subject to FDA approval and regulation. They’ve all been “tested” (to whatever degree you trust the overworked and underpaid government authority that approved Thalidomide and Aspartame) individually, but it would be impossible to test these products against each other in all the possible combinations in which they are consumed. (For more information: How the EPA regulates pesticides)

Pesticides alone are currently under intense public scrutiny and have been labeled by many in the realm of science as “obesogens”. A family of chemicals that alter the human metabolic process in such a way that diet and exercise can potentially be futile.  (Read an article at the NIH: Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity for more information.) Chemicals, such as pesticides, have also been linked to a higher rate of heart disease and cancer. But in our society I’m pretty sure that the statement “They’ll make you fat” would be more successful in deterring people than “It might give you cancer”.

Those are the meat and bones of my new “diet”. When evaluating how I wanted to change my eating habits, because I’ve always wanted to eat more healthily, I had to ask myself two things.

  1. Can you see yourself eating like this 10 years from now?
  2. Can you maintain this “diet” 90% of the time.

If you can’t answer both of those in the affirmative and mean it, then it’s not the right diet change for you. A change in diet, one that will make you healthier, has to be sustainable. It has to be something you can carry with you for the rest of your life to be truly successful. It also has to provide wiggle room. We all have parties, graduations, weddings, summer events to attend. We can’t always be expected to skip the slice of cake, or the occasional Italian beef sandwich. We just have to “cheat” in moderation and within limits. An ice cream cone is okay a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s is not. A simple rule of thumb, don’t keep cheat foods in the house. If you have to go out to have them, they’ll be more difficult to binge on. Walk to your local ice cream shop for that ice cream cone. You’ll get some exercise and still have your “cheat” treat.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating… how is it that on the whole, we’re  so much more informed about what is and isn’t good for the human body, but we’re unhealthier than ever in human history? Get back to the basics, eat like your grandparents (or great grand-parents) ate, and you just might find that you feel a thousand times better.

On my journey to clean eating I’m going to try to review products that I find, devices that I use and recipes that I make. I hope you’ll all join me in adding healthier choices to your diet and stop using the word “diet” as something you only do to lose weight.

My thoughts for the day-

-LDd

Women: Our Sisters; Our Enemies. It’ Time for Change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.

I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.

The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself  –  “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”

It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.

She’s prettier than I am: -1pt

Her house is larger -5 pts:

She drives a nicer car: -3pts

 She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt

but

Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts

Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts

Her nose is crooked: +4 pts

Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts

Her ass is sagging: +6pts

If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.

The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:

“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”

And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?

Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.

When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.

How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?

Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.

Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?

The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.

Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.

Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.

Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.

Embrace the crooked noses, the uneven skin tones, or any other physical trait that makes a fellow woman unique.

Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.

To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”

Just my thought of the day.

A Progress Post – To Keep Me Honest

For those of you that don’t know -The happy, shining, optimistic, “totally have a handle on everything” type of people, can lose our focus and perspective too.

In the first quarter of this year I lost 30 pounds due to stress. I had what was, basically, a nervous breakdown. I am the opposite of a stress eater. I suffer from stress induced anorexia, I also tend to not eat when I’m really involved or occupied by something. Obviously no one, not even me, was happy with my weight loss. But when I got a handle on things and was able to drag my happy, optimistic self back up to the gleaming surface of the world again, I decided I was going to seize this moment and turn it in my favor.

It was time to take something that was unhappy and unhealthy and turn it into something beautiful and empowering.

I resolved to eat better. Not healthier, per se, because I already focus on veggies, fruit, and moderated portions. But definitely more often and on a routine schedule – so I started packing a full work days’ worth of meals every day that included snacks and vitamin supplements.  I limited my coffee drinking to before 11:00am and I increased my water intake to nearly a gallon a day. I started tracking my calories again.

I signed up for Warrior Dash, which forced my unmotivated behind to return to the gym (where I hadn’t been for 4 months) where I signed up for two boot camp and one spin class each week.

I’d lost the weight, which was half of what was holding me back. Now it was time to tone and strengthen.

So, to keep myself honest, this is my progress report.

To date: I’ve gained 5 pounds but lost: 4 inches on my hips, 1.5 inches on my waist, and 1 inch on my chest.  I wear a size 6 jean (7 juniors) but I now have to wash and dry them on hot and after wearing them for an hour or so they sag in the thighs and butt. Official sizing charts put me in a size 4 (5’6” – 34, 25, 36) but we’ll see about that.

The bikini I purchased for motivation is, because I’m a moron and bought a large, too big on the bottom. So I’m going to have to buy a new bottom prior to our trip to the Dells at the end of the month.

On the exercise front: I can run a mile at a 6 mph pace without stopping or feeling like I’m going to die. My squats go all the way to the floor now and I have actual muscle in the back of my arms, as opposed to old lady pigeon wings. I don’t even complain about the diamond push-ups in boot camp anymore.

I’ve been lazy with my running program. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with school (I just finished another 4.0 semester which brings me to 3.88GPA overall) but the truth is I’ve just been more interested in having a life. I’m going to try to get back on board with the running, but I won’t kick myself too hard if I don’t, since I’m still taking classes during the week.

My food intake has improved, but it’s not perfect. I do great on the days I’m at work, but on Thursday and the weekends I forget to eat, I sneak coffee in the afternoons, I don’t drink enough water, and I completely forget about my vitamins. I’m working on a solution for this… Probably making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so I have no excuses not to eat. But, at least on average, I’m meeting my calorie minimum every day!

All in all, I’m glad I’m back to my shiny, happy self. I’m determined to continue on my path of personal growth and, barring another extremely traumatic series of events, am hoping to avoid any more nervous breakdowns because it’s really not the preferred method of losing weight.

This post is my way of keeping me honest about my progress this far. Pictures might be added at a later date.

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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