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Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey? Go Home.

Hurricaine Harvey, am I right?

I'm a little late this week because, well, Harvey.  And a trip to Dallas that was originally planned to leave on Sunday, backed up and left a day early because of...Harvey.

We made it there, we made it back.  Everyone is safe and sound and I've never been so happy to be home, or so nervous on the drive here.

In any case, here are a couple pictures from the neighborhood.

What I didn't get were pictures of the lines of trucks towing boats and flatbeds full of water and other supplies that we passed on the way home.

Just, THANK YOU.  To everyone who put on a rain parka and went into harm's way to help strangers get to safety.

Watching all those trucks go by, originating from Dallas for sure (About a 4 hour drive away) but also from farther away just makes me want to smuck that cynical side of me that takes over sometimes.
To all my friends and loved ones, thank you for thinking of us, yes we're safe, no, we haven't flooded yet and yes they are evacuating parts of my county due to planned releasing of water at certain points.  Luckily our subdivision is not near any lakes so we're still in the clear.

For now everything is cancelled, school and work.  No one is going anywhere now unless we have to. 

We've got lots of supplies - all the essentials.  Tomato soup, food for Benji, water, milk, bread and, of course, wine.  Only thing to do now is to hunker down and stay safe.  After that, see how we can help those who aren't faring so well.

If there's one thing I'm learning about Texas, it's that people help each other.  Politics takes a back seat and human beings come first.  It's lovely to see, and terrible it takes a crisis to see it.  

While I was getting some last minute supplies before we left (afore mentioned water, bread, soup etc) I had three people stop and help me.  One to load the water onto cart, one that saw Ellie lost a shoe and hurried to get it for her, and one totally random stranger who saw me struggling to get both kids in the car, brought my cart around and unloaded my supplies for me.

From the simple kindnesses of strangers in the grocery store to the first aid responders and nurses who are working 4 day shifts (yep, four days) to ensure the community is safe, these Texans have both impressed and humbled me.

I couldn't help but wonder, they're so sweet, but how many of them had political (and social) views I would agree with?  Probably none of them.  Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe with all the conflict going on now is NOT the time to talk politics, not to talk about those things that divide us at all.  You can't reason away deeply held beliefs no matter how wrong we think they are.

So maybe the thing to do, and we can do this right now wherever we are, is just to quietly, kindly, and whole heartedly treat everyone like they're human beings worthy of our time and compassion.  

Hardest thing to do is usually the right thing, yah?

Thanks again everyone, and stay safe.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Where's The Love People? Also, Where's the BABY!? Oh, Right, Chewing on the Dog's Tail.

Do you think you’re awesome?  I have the remedy for that!  Two babies.   Thirty minutes.  Ego dissolved. 

You will begin to doubt your own ability to dress YOURSELF.  And you should.  Because your T-shirt is probably inside out and stained with flung baby food.

It became clear to me this past week while Bill was away helping his dad in New Jersey that children were why we evolved within tribes.  This two baby thing really needs to be done IN SHIFTS.  

A 9 month old baby is a crawling, exploring, dog-chasing, shoe-chewing, couch-climbing, tiny ANYTHING-eating, CONSTANT DANGER TO HIMSELF.

And a three year old WILL fling her toys around dangerously close to said baby’s head if she is not getting her way.  

She doesn’t get her way fairly often so, baby’s learning to duck.

Baby’s also learning to pull himself up to a standing position while I’m busy explaining to Ellie what will happen the next time one of her toys becomes airborne.  Baby then wobbles and otherwise holds on precariously, preparing to fall onto anything sharp or hard edged near-by while I leap over downed toys and abandoned puzzle pieces to try and catch him in time.  

Cue a high pitched anger-scream from Ellie because she is not getting the 99% of my time attention she is used to and…now you know how I spend my days.

I thought she was handling this baby-thing quite well.

I was wrong.

As a newborn he was sleeping a lot.  And not in any immediate danger most of the time.  And not trying to take-stand-chew-drool on all her favorite toys.

Now that he’s ‘out and about’ in the world, she is realizing he is a totally separate being in this family that also needs toys to play with, time, attention, and love.  Toys, time, attention and love that used to be ALL HERS.

My solution is simple:  Drinking wine instead of water until they’ve graduated University.

Ok no, that’s not it either.  My solution is even simpler.  Taking one day at a time.  Sometimes they both get what they need, sometimes they don’t.  But I’m doing my best every day and trust it counts for something.

Which brings me to my OTHER coping mechanism, I also meditate, AND pray, every day.  

Not because I’m pious or super-spiritual, (um, obviously!) but as a means of sanity survival.  

I was checking out a new church with the kids last Sunday and during his sermon he made fun of meditating.  (And also anyone who mediates, IE, yours truly.)  As soon as he said it Ellie's eyes swung to me like...did he just make fun of you mommy?  And the answer is, yes.  Yes he did.  From the pulpit.

To me praying and meditating are two sides of the same coin and it kills me when I hear preachers come down against it from the pulpit.  It’s closing off a way to connect with God (and yourself) that I have found invaluable in my life and it really irks me to hear someone slam it thoughtlessly.  As a crowd pleaser during a sermon.  (Always gets scattered laughter and a positive response).

They’re both coping mechanisms for when life gets hard to handle.  When the gap between who you WANT to be and who you ARE gets a little too wide, it’s time to sit still.  And listen.  And unwind and let go.

There are a host of scientifically proven benefits to giving your mind and body a few minutes every day to be still and rest: from faster recovery times, lower intensity of chronic pain, less incidence of heart disease and, of course, less stress.  All of these also apply to praying.

I'm all over the place today but lastly - I’d be remiss if I didn’t say SOMETHING about all these hate and confederacy statues…  

To me, those statues were a part of history I probably should know more about.  I didn’t realize what they symbolized until I watched men and women (and their poor kids) marching around it with hate symbols and signs, with weapons and shields and...rage.  A rage I don't understand.  

To sum up - if the KKK is for it?  We know we need to be against it.  Easy.  Peasy.

                Take.  Them.  All.  Down.

Lastly, a few quotes about love and compassion that I think applies to any time we encounter hate, anger undeserved, racism and/or ignorance about something (or someone) we love.

“World peace must develop from inner peace.  Peace is not just mere absence of violence.  Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.”  Dalai Lama

“In separateness lies the world’s greatest misery; in compassion lies the world’s true strength.”  Buddha.

1 John 2: 9 (ESV)
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”  

 John 12: 34-35 (ESV)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Where's the love people?  Where's the love?  Also, WHERE'S THE BABY!?  Ack.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Am I Parenting Wrong? Wait, Don't Answer That...

Are you ‘parenting’ wrong?  

Ask around for advice on anything from potty training to how much juice is too much, and you’ll get lots of people assuring you.  

Assuring you that you are, in fact, DOING IT ALL WRONG.

Heck, you don’t even have to ask.  Just show up in public with the kiddo’s and you’ll get LOTS of solutions to problems you didn’t even realize you had.

Unbeknownst to me I am engaging in a controversial parenting style.  

I call it, ‘Treating Kids Like They’re Human Beings.’  You can call it whatever you like, but the term thrown around these days is ‘attachment’ parenting style.  Most people think I'm nuts and doing it all wrong and I know because THEY TELL ME.  Not that I ask...

In any case, Bill lets me take the lead on this because, well, I'm with them 89% of the time. 

I happened across an article about attachment parenting though and apparently I’m doing THAT all wrong too.  For example, I learned you aren’t supposed to use strollers, ever, and breastfeeding until they’re kindergarden age?  No thanks. 

It is clear though, that this is the style my heart bends toward.  If he’s crying, I’ll pick him up.  (Who can resist comforting a crying baby!?  WHO I ask you!?)

Is it not in every cell of your body to reach down to that adorable, blubbering mess with the outstretched arms and cuddle him close?  

There have been a few times where he’s fussed a little but I was busy with Ellie, or just about done washing the dishes and I didn’t get to him right away, and he stopped fussing and played quietly for another couple of minutes.  I’m assuming no lasting damage is being done in these instances and chalk it up to ‘that’s life’.

I am still breast feeding at 9 months because it’s still working for both of us.  He loves it and frankly, I enjoy it too.  There’s almost no better feeling than when he snuggles up to nurse.

Except when he’s done eating, and he leans back and looks me in the eye and grins like, ‘You're alright, I'll keep you around a little longer lady'.  

He is happier when I carry him in the carrier verses the stroller.  And he does wake up a lot at night still, probably not because he’s hungry but because he wants comforted.  

Ellie went through this too and she sleeps through the night like a champ now, and has since she was about a year and a half old.  No sleep training required.  I didn’t always feed her, or pick her up even at night-time wakings, but if she was crying more than a whimper or two I’d go in and rub her back, put the pacey back in.  Basically assuring her I was there even if we weren’t in the same room anymore. 

Not that it’s all golden.  She IS anxious when we separate and IS very attached to me.  She HAS started throwing tantrums every-time she doesn’t get her way.  

And I mean, EVERY TIME lately.  (I WANTED BLUEBERRIES.  NOT STRAWBERRIES!!! WAHHHHH...)   Cue end-of-the-world level hysterics.  And I do mean hysterics. 

But I think this stage would have happened no matter what ‘style’ of parenting I adopt.  She needs to go through this pushing of boundaries to know what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

When she’s rude, we redirect her.  When she’s having a tantrum, she doesn’t get what she wants.  

It’s pretty simple.  Painful, but necessary.

She IS anxious about new situations and people and that's slowly getting better.  Again, that could be ALL MY FAULT and because I hugged her when she cried and picked her up when she was scared.  Or it could be just her baseline.  She's emotional.

Benji is already showing a more easy-going personality.  I can't see the future but no matter how my kids turn out I'm going to feel like it's my fault for every gap and misstep.  So, I might as well follow my heart, and then I know I screwed up, but I screwed up with all the love, compassion, and faith in myself that I could muster. 

My goals in parenting have always been simple.  I want my kids to be useful, productive, happy, and above all, not an asshole.  I want them to be kind, too, and compassionate and empathetic.  But mostly, I just want them NOT TO BE ASSHOLES.

The world has enough of them, yah?

“Having children is a lot like living in a frat house - nobody sleeps, everything’s broken and there’s a lot of throwing up.”  Ray Ramano



Saturday, August 05, 2017

Steadying This Beautiful Old House

Ok I’ve tried to write this blog three times now this week and all I keep writing is…ugh…SERIOUS stuff.  

Find your true self stuff, meaning of life stuff.  Or worse, WORLD EVENTS stuff.  

Like Donald, rolling back immigrants in a country BUILT BY IMMIGRANTS.  Everyone here who isn’t Native or brought over on a slave ship ARE THEMSELVES IMMIGRANTS.  

And I don’t know about YOUR friends, but none of MY friends had their jobs taken by an immigrant.  None of MY friends wants to mow grass, clean houses, or pick blueberries in 97 degree heat which is what the majority of immigrants are doing.

I digress.

I'm SO SORRY!  Come on Ange, the lighter side, you can do it!  

I just, every time I turn on the news I’m thinking, HOLY CRAP what is HAPPENING OUT THERE!?

And what can I do about it?

To be totally, totally honest I’ve always been a little wary of the United States as a whole.  Growing up in Canada, on the few trips we made to the US (mostly Maine, Bangor, and Maryland, and DC once or twice) I was always struck by two things;

One, the history of this country, from Washington to FDR to Lincoln to JFK to more currently Obama has always struck a chord of wonder deep in my imagination.  America IS amazing.  And wonderful.  And camelot-ish.

Two, it isn’t as safe as Canada.  At least, it never felt that way.  It was dirtier, and scarier, less accepting and less able to laugh at itself.  The US has always felt like the more serious older brother.  One you respected and admired but who you always felt wasn’t necessarily more wise.

Admittedly I developed this opinion as a child, and for better or worse it has always stuck with me. 

I am still stupefied that a hospital here could refuse to care for someone if they didn’t have money or insurance.  And that as a country, people would on the whole be ok with that.  Or that an urgent care clinic could charge $1,500 for an ear infection. 

Then agree to take it down to $300, because I called and complained.  (If it only cost $300, why would you charge $1,500?)

I can’t find the lighter side to that.  Profit over people mystifies me.

But anyway, I LIVE here now.  Probably forever.  My two kids are American.  They’re also half white, half Taiwanese.  (And 100% adorable)  They’re growing up in a country where the NAACP recently issued a travel warning to minorities visiting Missouri.  

Because, racism.  And violence.  

They’re growing up in a country that, under Trump, has seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes and racist intimidation since his election. (Southern Poverty Law Center - NY - Nov 17, 2016)

I can’t find the lighter side to that, either.

I’m here wiping bums and noses and fetching snacks and juice and doing my best to teach my kids compassion, and manners, and that love really does conquer all.  And that everyone is the same inside, no matter what they look like on the outside.

And it kind of feels like I’m painting the walls on the inside of a house that’s slowing falling apart.

I do have hope.  I have hope these incidents are inspiring lots of other people to come out against racism where before they may have stayed silent.  

Don’t let the bullies win people.  Our kids are depending on us to help make the world they will inherit a better place.  

Let’s not just paint the walls.  Let’s hammer back a few nails, put up a few more beams and steady this beautiful, creaky old country.  For ALL of us.