Dear Friends: Will you please stop skewering one another?

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Dear Friends,

Never in a million years did I think much of anything could drive me off Facebook. You see, I love it ardently (enough so, in fact, that I blithely overlook its time-sapping abilities, its intrusive personal information practices, and more pictures of kittens than I care to see). In the wake of this week’s election results, I reached a point where I. Couldn’t. Even. Read. One. More. Post. Where my anxiety shot through the ceiling and it was hard to find a single encouraging thought.

It’s not because of the “idiot Liberals.” Nor is it because of the “xenophobic Conservatives.” It’s not even “the annoying Independents who obviously don’t even CARE who wins.” Or the “apathetic morons” who didn’t vote at all. (Editor’s note: I don’t feel that way about any of you, this is just the vibe I’ve gathered from the internet this week.)

It’s the fact that SO many people are being unkind, defensive, offensive, and all-or-nothing in their thinking. Countless people lamented (loudly) that people who voted as they did were being oppressed by those who voted the other way. This is legit, as I also saw posts berating, generalizing, and villainizing people who voted either way. Next came the posts blasting and defaming people who voted third party, felt lukewarm about the two main candidates (or outright disliked both), or who didn’t vote at all. Scores of judgements flew around the internet. No one was immune, and no one could do anything right. I’m an idealist by nature, but I pretty much had to retreat at that point, lest I lose my faith in humanity.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own Philosophy of Life. (I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve even been here, and we’ve only known each other for a couple of blog posts, but I guess it’s time to pull that out for show and tell.) My Rule #2 for All of Life is, “Remember: Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have at the time.” (The only rule important enough to precede it is Rule #1, “Everything goes better when you’re not hungry, tired, or in a hurry, so avoid those states when possible,” but that isn’t quite the point at the moment.)

Initially, I devised Rule #2 to give myself perspective on trivial things, like slow drivers in front of me and crabby store clerks. However, in our crazed, frantic, post-election society, I realized that it applies profoundly. I truly believe that EVERY person (if there are exceptions, I would guess they are few) who voted did his or her best to vote based on his or her own genetics, upbringing, education (or lack thereof), life experience, and perspective. (Similarly, those who didn’t vote didn’t do so based on all those factors.) We can dislike the way a person voted, but it doesn’t seem fair to hate her for it, because she came to vote that way for complicated reasons. We can fail to understand our friend’s post-election feelings and emotions, but it isn’t fair to attack him for those feelings, because he came by them honestly. And if we want to change people’s perspectives, we have to address all those fundamental factors that play into those perspectives.

Casting blame, calling names, angry tirades, and whining won’t get us very far. It’s certainly not going to create the unity that we need to look around, figure out what are the real problems within our society, and then set about resolving them. At the end of the day, most of the issues about which we feel passionately CANNOT be resolved without empathy and understanding of both sides. We have to be able to sit with discomfort and fear, hear all the perspectives without taking alternative views as personal affronts, and look at all the shades of grey. Can you imagine what this photo would look like if we edited out everything except the black and the white? Our society would look just as boring.
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In writing this, I’ve also come to realize that the same is probably true for our post-election reactions: We’re all doing the best we can with what we have in this moment. Sometimes, the best we can muster is fear, fury, defensiveness, or sheer retreat. Let’s try to give ourselves understanding for that. After all, feelings and gut reactions “are what they are.” But then, let’s pick ourselves up and figure out how to move forward and bring ourselves and others to a more enlightened place.

What am I going to do, going forward? At least for now, I think Facebook and I still need to see other people . . . we’ve just been through too much this week. But I am going to work with every fiber of my being to fill my own thoughts with compassion and to fling kindness around like confetti. I will promise that I will protect you, respect you as a fellow human, and love you– ALL of you, whether you’re black, white, any color in between, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, the strongest evangelical Christian I know, the most skeptical atheist I know, the most Liberal  friend in my Facebook feed, the most Conservative person I’ve ever met, or someone who doesn’t even vote.

I have your back. Please, please, try and find the care and empathy to have one another’s backs, as well.

With Sincere Love,

Heather

 

What I Didn’t Do Over My Summer Vacation (A Slacker Mom’s Manifesto)

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Since having kids (or, perhaps, since getting “old”), time passes much too quickly for my taste. I spend a lot of time in “Emily-from-Our-Town” mode, wanting to shout at the universe, “It all goes by so fast! We never even have time to look at one another!” As such, Tiny Guy’s kindergarten year hit me like a ton of bricks. Clichéd though it may be, it seems like it was only a few days ago that he was a newborn, just home from the hospital, on a two-day sleep strike because he wanted to study every room in our home. Almost six all-too-short years later, Tiny Guy was beginning kindergarten—which, in my mind, was the launching point of the true separation between parent and child.

Let’s fast forward nine months to June—the burned-out, ragged, “What do you mean they want us to send items for an end-of-year-party? Aren’t they happy enough we’re managing to send our kids?” end of the school year. All those sappy sentiments were long buried in homework, “kindolescent” (kindergarten-going-on-adolescent—if you’ve ever have a kindergartener, you’ll understand) angst, and activity after activity. We were ready for the bus at 8:20 am, off the bus by 4:15 pm, then homework, dinner, and off to ice skating, gymnastics, swimming (two kids at two different places), and church activities. We would come home, shuttle the kids to bed, and then stare, in a daze, worn out.

It was in that frame of mind that Handsome Prince and I, while poring over the activities catalogs for the summer, made the radical decision not to do any of it. We decided against sports, arts, and summer camps. We decided that we would take a stand against busy-ness, and see where the chips fell.

I’m not gonna lie . . . there was some mom guilt involved and I had a lengthy debate (or three) with myself:

H: Don’t you think they’ll miss out on all those opportunities to grow and improve over the summer?

H: Surely there are other opportunities that are just as worthy? They don’t have to spend tons of time honing their skills. Wasn’t “not enough play time” a probable source of Tiny Guy’s angst this year? Let them play, for %&*^ sake!

H: But . . . but . . . what if I’m failing to help Tiny Guy become the next Brian Boitano? Or preventing Roo from becoming the next Mary Lou Retton?

H: Um . . . first of all, could you choose more antiquated athletes? Don’t you know anyone newer? (Fun fact: The answer is no, not off the top of my head.) Secondly, have you met your family? Realistically, we’re probably not sending anyone to the Olympics within the next couple of generations. Finally, they don’t need to be pro athletes, or anywhere near it. They just need to be kids.

H: But won’t they get bored?

H: Probably not, really. Besides, they probably should learn that boredom happens, and figure out how to deal with it.

H: But won’t we go crazy? What will we do with them?

H: We will try and do the things that make summer memories. We will go out for ice cream, let them get messy, and let them goof around in the backyard. We will do as many of the summer library activities as we can. We’ll go to the zoo, go to the park, and have fun. We’ll relax, and see if we can’t use this summer to recharge.

H: Okay, I guess you have a point. Let’s do it!

Because I didn’t spend my summer vacation shuttling the kids from activity to activity, that means we did spend it doing lazy-but-important things:

  • Playing outside, going for walks, and going for bike rides, allowing Tiny Guy to learn to master riding his bike without training wheels.
  • Going out for ice cream.
  • Splashing in the sprinklers and the kiddie pool.
  • Checking off items on our summer bucket lists.
  • Allowing the kids to experience life-without-having-to-focus-on-where-we’re-going-in-ten-minutes. Letting them play with each other, find ways not to be bored and activities to do together, and just be as a family before the school year starts and we’re pulled in a million different directions again.

Overall, I would call the experiment a success, and I would NOT do all those things again in a heartbeat. In fact, even as I write, I’m pondering how much we could scale back things in the fall, and how much easier that might make our transition into the school year.

Breaking the Ice: Let’s Start with a Pin-anigan, Shall We?

ImageFriends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. Although I suppose in this case, it’s your eyes (brains? time? all of the above?) that I’m attempting to borrow.

Welcome to my new blog! Ultimately, I have the lofty goal of us exploring life, the universe, and everything; coming to peace with ourselves; and making the universe a better place. However, this is my first blog post EVER, and there are a few things standing in my way.

1. It’s our first date, internets, and I’m just not ready to share all that stuff yet.

2. It’s my first blog post ever, and I have a steep learning curve ahead of me.

3. I need to stretch and warm up my “writing muscles.”

So we’re not getting into any of that lofty or philosophical stuff yet.

Instead, I’ll share a story about Roo’s 4th birthday party this summer. Given that she is currently planning to be a mermaid when she grows up, the obvious decision was made for her to have a Little Mermaid party. I do love me some themes, and I’ll usually do a Pinterest search, pull out a few “cute” ideas for each kid’s birthday, and run with them. When Roo saw the “easier to make than cake pops” crab pops, she was sold. I reasoned that they’d be just perfect for our mermaid bash.

The (blog-of-origin) name “Sew Homegrown” probably should have tipped me off that I was more-than-a-little out of my league. Don’t get me wrong, the author seems amazing, but she’s busy making elaborate quilts and teaching her kids how to sew using handmade activity cards. That? Is very much beyond the scope of my existence.

Which brings me to 11 pm, the night before Roo’s party, when I am melting pink chocolate. “Pink? Why pink? Crabs are red,” you may say. “This is true,” I reply, “But the ladies at the cake shop didn’t have red candy melts (fun fact: they’re only sold during the winter at our local cake supply store), and they told me to start with pink so I could use slightly less than 10 gallons of red candy coloring. Also, crabs have 8 legs, and these only have 6, so there is some willful suspension of disbelief going on in the first place.” I melt the chocolates, and then start to add the red.

Here’s the thing about scads of food coloring: It changes things somehow. You just can’t make something THAT red without ramifications, I’ve decided. (Want evidence? Why is red velvet cake such a different consistency than ordinary chocolate cake? It’s the bottle of food coloring, I hypothesize.) Ergo, after adding the scads and scads of food coloring, my chocolate got crumbly and weird. Which is when I remembered that the instructions said, “If your chocolate starts to get too thick, simply add a little whole milk and stir until smooth.”

Here’s the thing about adding milk to chocolate: it causes the chocolate to seize. After 11 on the night before a birthday party, however, one might just think, “Oh, pish posh! The mighty instructions say to add milk!” Which might be followed by the chocolate seizing. Which, by the time the fruit snacks were cut into claws and the pretzel sticks were broken into legs and the mini marshmallows were made into eyes, may have brought you to an impossibly late hour and the decision to abandon the project for the night.

At this point, I’m thinking that giving up entierly would make Roo sad. And it’s hard enough being a middle child, and will become even harder someday when she realizes that she’s-a-middle-child-who-probably-can’t-even-BE-a-mermaid-when-she-grows-up. I decide, “By George, these crab pops WILL happen!”

Later that morning, we go to two stores and finally find white candy melts (it’s Sunday, so the friendly neighborhood cake shop is closed). I head home, determined as ever. I’ve been prattling about this for some time, so here is the “short” summary:

1. Melted chocolate burns fingers.

2. I don’t know how much red food coloring it takes to make chocolate truly red, but it is WAY beyond my comfort level.

3. “Pred” (the pink-red color I achieved before I was maximally creeped out) chocolate found ways to permeate every area of my kitchen.

4. These pops? NOT yummy, at least to the adult palate. To be honest, I don’t think the kids really liked eating them, either.

The good news? Some kitchen scissors and a bed of brown sugar sand can do wonders for making a true fail seem slightly less so. Also: no matter what, things are at least a little endearing when they have big, Muppet-style eyes. Most importantly, Roo loved them, and here’s hoping she felt a little extra loved that I did something difficult in her honor.ImageNext to come (I think): How I Didn’t Spend My Summer Vacation: A slacker Mom’s Manifesto.

Smiles,

Heather