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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Secret Confessions of a Not So Perfect Mom

“Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity—a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.” —Rose Kennedy


Second….don’t judge me but I have a confession to make.  A secret I’m ashamed to admit.  Remember, this is just between me and you.  And no judging!

Ellie is addicted to my IPAD.  

She calls it ‘ba-baba’.  She screams for it morning noon and night.  I’ve actually heard her cry out for it in her sleep.  Houston…we have a problem.  Or, as Whyat says, ‘We have a SUPER big problem.  And when we have a SUPER big problem, we look… a book…

Problem is everywhere I look it’s only judgement and recrimination.  

As in, ONLY HORRIBLE PARENTS LET A 2 YEAR OLD PLAY ON A IPAD INSTEAD OF MEMORIZING THE ALPHABET.  Or polishing her shoes.  Or studying the Emancipation Proclamation.

Anyhoo, from what I can gather, she’s not the only one.  Apparently it is the crack cocaine of the toddler world.  And my daughter is leading the wave of adorable little addicts.  

She’s down to an hour in the morning and that’s it, all day.  Until I break the stranglehold it has on her this is going to be a very miserable week.  It’s not that we usually let her on it all day or anything, but it has been oh so convenient when we travel, when we’re eating breakfast and cleaning up or making supper.

Well, no more.  When she screams for something THIS much, it must be terrible for her.  The only other thing Ellie wants this bad are chips.  Or, ‘Sips!  Sips!  Yummm…’   Which, I know, I know, SUPER bad mom of the year I let her eat chips instead of organic Oat and Quinoa and Barley muffins made by an Amish woman who hasn’t eaten a chocolate chip ever in her whole life.  I digress.

Starting as soon as I finish this blog the IPAD goes away for the day.  Yep, she’s on the IPAD right now.  

How did you think I was writing this!?  

She isn’t one to read quietly to herself.  Maybe I’m being a little hard on her, after all she hasn’t learned to actually read yet.  (What’s the problem, Ellie, Ben Franklin was 3 when he learned to read!)  He must have read quietly by himself in a corner, NOT destroying his neural pathways by staring passively at a flickering screen.  I’m freaking myself out.  What’s happening to her brain!?

This blog is done.  I’m off to wean my baby off the IPAD, and hopefully back onto the path to a decent college.  (It’s too late for Harvard, but maybe if I cut out the IPAD now she can still make it into a decent local Texas University.)

After that I’m off to do what every ‘terrible’ mom does.  I’m going to eat chocolate and commiserate that I’m not the WORST parent ever.  There are parents out there worse than me.  Somewhere.  Maybe I should google it on my laptop.  Or my IPhone.  


I may be part of the cocaine-IPAD issue.  !  I need to put away MY ‘Ba-baba’s’.  Just before I do, I will leave you with this thought.

If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. —Carl Jung

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Angela 'Shiny-Things' McAffee (Yeh) Manages to Meditate

‘Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.’ Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

I started trying to mediate for the health benefits.  Reduced stress, more focus, less chronic diseases.  WHAT?  You say?  It does all that!  (And more!)

Yep - in a few recent studies meditation has shown to lengthen telomeres and increase telomerase activity.  (What the heck is that?)  

Glad you asked.  They’re the little do-dads that cap off our chromosomes.  Like the thingie on the end of shoe laces that keeps them from unraveling.  When we’re stressed and as we age they get frayed and they shorten.  (Studies by Epel and Blackburn).  If you’re interested in the science, there’s a good article on called “Can meditation really slow aging” by Jo Merchant (July 10, 2014). 

Also, there is a 21 day FREE meditation series with Deepak Chopra and Oprah, starts TOMORROW, March 21st.  ( Shedding the weight, mind, body and spirit.  

I welcome you all to join me in this challenging but rewarding adventure.  I do love free.

Anyhoo, because I know you’ll want to jump right here - here’s a quick ‘Meditation for dummies’.  

Or, ‘How Angela ‘Shiny things’ Mcaffee-Yeh managed to stay still for more than 2 minutes.

Set a timer.  Try.  Not.  Peeking.

Set the timer for about 4 minutes longer than you want to meditate.  Want to start at 3 minutes? 

Try setting it for 7 minutes.  It will take you at least 4 minutes to settle down.  (Wait, that light is too bright.  My butt hurts without a pillow.  I want to light a candle.  Did I feed the dog?  My nose is itchy…etc)

I am an expert on having to slow down my frenetic monkey-brain no matter what time of day it is.  Deep breathing helps to calm and center.  Once I’m finally ready and take a few deep breaths my brain jumps around to the to do list.  

Some people would tell you to ignore it.  SOME people don’t know what it’s like to have to use a post-it note to remind yourself to BRUSH YOUR HAIR in the morning.  When this happens I always find a pen and paper and write it down.  

Once your to do list is done you can relax and let the thoughts pass by.  Watch them as they go like clouds in the sky - try not to judge them.  Sometimes snippets of conversations come back to me or things I’ve said or done that I feel like I shouldn’t have.  (Why did I say having a puppy was hard work?  She’s got FIVE kids, I think she knows hard work…)  

When that happens I try to let that go too.  It’s just your brain reaching out to hold on to something.  (What, you want me to be STILL!?  Wait, let me just fix that for you…shouldn’t we be obsessing over what you said to Brian earlier!?)  Our brains are like excited puppies.  They need a little coaxing to settle down.  Well, mine is.  A tiny, really yappy chihuahua.

So about half an hour into my 3 minute meditation, I’m usually finally ready to settle in. 

Open eyes, closed eyes, it doesn’t really matter.  I have meditated outside or while looking out the window at the trees.  

But because I have the attention span of a fruit fly I usually need to mediate at night, with low light, and have my eyes closed.  Otherwise it’s…’Squirrel!  Bird!  Blue bird.  So pretty.  Did I fill the feeder?  Where did he go?  What was that shadow?  

Anyway, all that to say…if I can do it, literally ANYONE can do this.  Good luck my fellow puppies!!

UPDATE: There's also a free meditation app called 'Insight Timer' that has a timer as well as some guided meditations and a community of people who are real-time meditating with you.

Good luck y'all!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Hash Brown Incident

I have decided this weekend will be all about me.  My husband thinks I’m crazy.  

Me: “This weekend is all about me.”
Husband: “That’s ridiculous.”
Me: “I’m the momma.  I’m taking a weekend for me.”

Silence while he gauges my facial expression for a hint of a smile to tell him this is a joke.  No smile.  

For two days I will be selfish.  I will put me first.  How did I come to this?  I will tell you.  

It all began with a fairly innocent trip to McDonald’s for breakfast.  As usual he cancels my order of two hash browns because he gets one with his meal and he doesn’t want it anyway.   (Thus saving us the 45 cents another hash brown would have cost).  

He’s done this a million times before and he always eats at least half even though he ‘didn’t really want it’ and the hash brown is my favorite part of the meal. 

For some reason this time, I am enraged.  Quietly.  Like a volcano erupting invisible hot lava all over the Mcdonald’s tile.  

We sit down.  After a few minutes he reaches for MY hash brown.  I watch in slow motion as he carefully trails a line of ketchup exactly down the middle from the perfectly made slice in the ketchup packet.  He reaches for the hash brown.  


ME: “NO!”

He laughs.  I don’t.  His smile fades.

HIM: “You’re not going to give me a bite?”

ME: “No.  This is MY hashbrown.”

HIM: “But you don’t even like the crunchy bit.”

ME: “But I DO like the crunchy bit.  I like every bit of this hash brown and you’re not getting it it’s MINE.”

He watches incredulously as I eat both hash browns without giving him any.  Not.  One.  Single.  Bite.

I don’t know what got into me.  As a rule, I don’t like to share my food.  Food is a precious, lovely, transporting magic mixture of delights that I like to immerse myself in.  

#Get.  Your.  Own.  But I usually DO share.  It makes him happy and I don't really care do I?

Anyway the world didn’t end and everything went on as usual except I had a satisfying amount of warm crunchy hash brown and Bill has learned to ORDER HIS OWN IF HE WANTS ONE ALREADY.

But the hash brown incident got me thinking.  How often do I give up what I want and need just to make sure everyone else is happy?  Or, more accurately, how often do I stay silent about what I want because I don’t want to ‘make a fuss?’  Because what I want and need is ‘no big deal, it’s fine, I’m fine without it?’

I think my problem may not just be an Ange-issue, although I have plenty of those.  (Eg - I LOVE Justin Beiber’s new song.  I like to color in Ellie’s coloring book more than she does.  I regularly eat a whole chocolate bunny by myself…).  I think the hash brown incident may be highlighting an issue a lot of women have.  I’m a little timid.  I have a hard time asking for what I want.

Well this weekend I didn’t.

Saturday AM: Ate BOTH hashbrowns.  Did not share.

Saturday AM: Ate the bum of my chocolate bunny that I had hidden in my bedroom nightstand drawer.  Went back to bed and napped for 2 hours.  Woke up and ate chips.

Saturday PM: Went over for a BBQ with some friends and when I got bored went upstairs and hung out with the kids.  I am the Air Hockey Queen.  

Sunday AM: Had a manicure AND a pedicure.  At once.  And put my ear phones in and listened to music even though I usually try to interact with the ladies so they don’t feel like I’m just some white lump of extravagance-loving socialite.

Sunday PM:  Ellie naps.  I listen to positive affirmations and meditate by myself, then write this blog.  Bill attempts to get me to work outside.  I shrug.  (Can’t hear you over my headphones….)

So.  This weekend has been all about me.  About what I want.  Now that I look over my weekend it looks like what I really crave is :

  1. Sleep
  2. Chocolate/junk food
  3. Alone time

So right now I’m going to go eat some ice-cream (Why I am not 400 pounds I do not know) and read a book.  By myself.

Sometimes you need to be recharged by being with other people.  By sharing stories, laughter, troubles and food.  But sometimes the batteries way deep down in your soul need recharging.  And they’re slow to charge.  You need stillness.  You need alone time.

There is solace in solitude and the wellspring of good humor about hash brown sharing can only bubble up if the depths within us are allowed to fill.

Maybe after this weekend of being ‘selfish’ and recharging my ‘deep-down’ batteries I can happily share my hash brown again.  But not my chocolate bunny.  Never the bunny.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Growing Hope in the 'Hood' of the Whitelands

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”  Herman Melville

A young black man in the brightest red suit I’ve ever seen, blue tie, blindingly white Nike sneakers came walking up the driveway yesterday while I was digging a hole for my Rosemary plant and I thought…finally. 

Something interesting is happening in this place.  “Hello, there!”

“Hi.”  I say, warily.  Even if you DO look like the most interesting thing to happen this year you are probably selling something I don’t need.

Turns out he was an ex-con trying to stay out of trouble by selling books and magazines door to door with an outfit called Team United from Gary Indiana.  

He was good.  Funny, engaging, self depreciating.  He said he helped to mentor young ‘knuckleheads’ from his neighborhood to help them stay out of trouble.  

It sounded like he worked for a charity or a Boys and Girls type of organization.  I could gift the books to an inner city school that needed it.  I looked up the organization online after - it looks barely legit and certainly wasn’t a charity but the guy was working hard.  It was hot that day.  

And any black man with the guts to go door to door in THIS lily-white two-gun a household Texan neighborhood and ask for money deserves a second look.  

I think it’s good to sow seeds of trust, of generosity in a wide net.  Some might fall on a hard heart but some may find a place to grow hope.

While we were talking I broached the subject of race.  We talked about what it was like for him growing up in a rough neighborhood.  He said he used to be part of a gang and that he was arrested selling marijuana.  

Three years for holding a few grams.  His son was four at the time, he’s eight now.  Ridiculous.  He did admit later he had the intent to sell (which would up the time served) but still.  

No one should spend time in jail for marijuana I don’t care how much you have on you.  

This guy lost three years of his life.  Unlike most young black men entering prisons for minor drug offenses he DID get his GED, he DID learn to read better and he DID have a mentor who helped him navigate the legal system so he can have a future.  He had help finding a real job, sucky as it may be, until he can get a better one.  

Getting arrested for holding weed is like being arrested and having a permanent record for selling WINE.  If we all had some weed instead of alcohol there would be less domestic violence, (no one gets high on weed and gets violent) less vehicular accidents, less liver disease, less cancer period, no overdoses and Cheetos would be rich enough to sponsor the next world Olympics.  Isn’t that a better world?

It’s only our cultural bias against it that makes it illegal.  Remember prohibition anyone?  That didn’t work out so well either. 

Mom - I agree no one should be drinking too much alcohol OR using marijuana.  It’s bad for you.  It impairs your judgement and for some people leads to a lifetime of addiction and unfulfilled potential.  For people under 21 it can permanently affect your brain chemistry.

But I digress.  I don’t know for sure, I am the whitest person on the planet…(I just made Hummus from scratch and dropped $20 at Starbucks for organic coffee grounds.)  

BUT I think getting out of a gang infested neighborhood with a drop-out rate of 60% and a literacy rate of 10% would feel almost impossible.  When the value is how tough you are, and not how smart you are.  Where your brothers and sisters, literally, are being killed or arrested instead of graduating and achieving.  

Where would you look for hope?  How do you find the courage to look for someone to teach you how to read well, and how to present yourself in a job interview?  

It’s ridiculous that someone like Robert (my friend in the bright red suit) spent three years in jail for holding a few grams of something that is way less harmful for you than whisky or rum.  He has 12 more months and then he can apply to have his record expunged.  Which means he can vote.  And actually get a job.  

He’s doing his time, he’s working hard at a job no sane person would want to do.  He is risking bodily harm going door to door in these neighborhoods by himself.

McDonalds won’t hire you if you have a record.  That’s undue punishment for millions of young people.  

I’ll leave you with a quote, and the reason I wrote this blog today:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Just one last note - I had a blond haired blue eyed mom at Ellie's gymnastics class Thursday tell me she's so glad there's another girl in the class.  I looked around - FOUR other little girls but you know what?  Their mom's weren't white.  I was offended.  And when I got home and Bill said 'Did she look at Ellie's eyes?  She's not white either'.  Then I got angry and sad.  Right down to my marrow.  People shouldn't judge other people because of the color of their skin, or the slant of their eyes.  Enough.

Black lives DO matter.  And there IS suffering.  There IS injustice.  I don’t know what I can do to help but at least I can start a discussion about it.  Even if I am the only one in all of the Woodlands (the Whitelands) to be chirping about it.

Chirp.  Chirp.