Tag Archives: Profound Questions

Who Are You?

Sometimes I find myself wondering who I am.  More specifically,  who am I to you?   In this space I am a featureless person who occasionally posts life altering moments–at least for me–but mostly whines.  At least that’s how it feels.  Which leads me to wonder,  what kind of person do you think I am?

I cannot write funny posts.  I try and fail miserably.  My humor does not translate on-screen.  I think it’s because I’m sarcastic and, in real life, am usually poking fun at myself for things I’ve said.  Hey,  if I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth several times a day I might as well laugh about it!

If you were to hang out with me for a few hours–or even minutes–I wouldn’t even mention the woes I am experiencing.  I might say something and reference it to my miscarriage in a very matter-of-fact way because that’s how I am. For real, I shoot straight.  (That’s actually how I talk.)

The conversation would probably be centered on you as I ask you a million questions.  I enjoy getting to know a person in depth and can ask some pretty awesome questions–granted that I feel comfortable enough asking them.  Talking about myself is something I actually avoid.  It’s not as fun.  Unless I can share a lesson I’ve learned that might help you in some way.

When you read my words here,  can you picture a determined woman?  Who cares deeply about social issues?  Who researches how to be the best mom?

I tend to relax in a unique manner,  by watching shows or reading books that make me think.  Sitcoms and love stories tend to irritate me so I stick with things I like.  Shows like The Universe, Gangland, and The First 48 are my top picks.  It isn’t unusual for Ben to come home from work to find me conked out on the couch and The Universe playing in the background.  Heck, the only books I’ve read lately have been my Astronomy textbook from college and Ben’s Biology textbook.

I’m not all serious.  I have a playful side that comes out when I’m with my family and around Ben.  I smile and giggle very often throughout the day as I watch Emily and Andrew play.  My family blog is devoted to how silly my kids are and how much they make me laugh.

Here, though, I’m a different person.  This is my place to ponder, analyze, discuss.  Even if there has been limited amounts of that lately.  I enjoy the relationships I have developed with so many of you; the bloggers I have surprisingly connected with.

Yet.  I feel a change coming.  A shift.  These past few months have been emotionally and physically taxing.  I have evaluated myself–my passions, my dreams–at a deeper level than ever before.  What I found was a person that I am still discovering.  Not necessarily a new me,  but a different me.  Perhaps someone I buried once I graduated from school, thinking that part of me was over,  who is emerging when I most need her.

I realize this post is dancing in and out of subjects.  Confusing as it might be, it accurately describes my mind at the moment.  I hop from thought to thought, subject to subject, trying to maintain some sort of rhythm.  Presently, the pattern alludes me.

But.

I feel closer to recognizing it.

Do you feel your blog fully represents who you are?  Or, do you feel that a one-time meeting would provide a person adequate time to really get to know you?

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And Maybe The Issue Isn’t Strictly About Women

After our delicious Easter dinner, there was an inordinate amount of dishes.  I blame the sleepy side effect of the turkey’s tryptophan for inhibiting our usual sense of cleanliness and forcing us into bed.  Early.  Of course, Ben’s all-nighter due to homework and my all-nighter due to Andrew the previous night could have had some compelling force as well.  Descriptions aside, I have been fighting dishes and laundry since Sunday.

As of this early evening, I finally overcame the dish monster.  The laundry demon, though, is putting up quite a battle.  I can’t be too sad about this, it allows me watch hours of mindless television.  You know, on my computer.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be mindless has turned out to be a source of constant philosophizing about gender issues;  specifically,  negative gender stereotypes.  Mostly about men.

What surprises me the most about this show is how progressive it purports to be.  Underneath their neat script, they are perpetuating gender stereotypes that I was sure were on their way out.  I am sad to say I thought wrong.

This TV series has the typical cast of characters.  It has the brilliant, thin, and super attractive women, and the intelligent, athletic, and handsome men. This show, like most shows, does an excellent job of portraying the women as very successful.  Kudos to them.  But, also like most shows, they portray the men as horribly crude and sexually impetuous.

I find it disturbing that in one episode they proved that women are equally knowledgeable when it comes to traditional male interests, like motorcycle racing, yet managed to include the long standing stereotype of males being incapable of rational thought when they are sexually aroused.   My husband refers to this as the “dumb men controlled by their testicles” stereotype.

In light of how much the image of women has changed over the years, going from “being in the kitchen” to running for president, I am appalled that the image of men as purely sexual beings has remained almost unchanged.

I am wondering,  is this stereotype any different from the women of the fifties who were metaphorically tied to their kitchens because of society’s definition of a good woman?

Sure you might be able to name a few men who allow their sexuality to control much of their impulsive behavior, but you could also name off an equal number of  women.

I am most disheartened by the image this sends to the younger generation:  men allow their genitalia to overwhelm any sagacious thought.  Men are capable of being rational beings, beings that do not allow their appetites to control their minds.  It is a myth that is wrongly advanced by the media and carried around in our minds–one that I find awfully degrading to men.

In my own home, I am trying to combat these myths.  I hope to raise my boys to respect all people.  I hope to raise them to be just like their father.

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I Can Find Alone Time!

I think that cliff hanger was pretty awesome.

In yesterday’s post, Wolf presented three things (sanity networking, furs for perfumes, and thanks for angels) to help all of us find some alone time.  With this half, she will provide us with more specifics.

How to get a moment alone (and what to do with it once you get it) Part 2


Network

Without question, it’s easier to build a network when your children hit preschool or elementary school. You have a built-in community with whom you share common ground. You can help each other in a pinch, including finding a way to get an hour or two to yourself. If your children are younger, you may be able to build your network from mothers you meet on the local playground, after church or synagogue services, or by other means.

  • If you don’t have a network, start building one. It won’t happen overnight. We’re talking about getting to know others who will potentially care for your children.
  • Is there someone you trust to spend an hour or two with your child? Someone from church, for example? Or a neighbor you’ve gotten to know over the past several years?
  • Is it possible to ask that person to stay during naptime – perhaps for an hour? Make it clear that you cannot afford a babysitter at this time, but you would be more than happy to reciprocate.
  • Suggest that you spend some time together first. Invite her (and her child or children) to your place – for coffee or tea. Get to know each other and see how it feels.
  • The act of sharing some adult time with another parent in your situation will be helpful. You won’t feel so isolated. And then give it a try – cell phone numbers exchanged – and don’t go very far the first time if you prefer. Maybe for a walk in the neighborhood. And eventually, an hour or two for yourself, every other week – or whatever works for you.
  • Tap into your blogging community. What other mothers may live near you, or have a sister or cousin or friend who’s in the same boat, who may live in your area?

Is it easy?

No, but it is workable. Am I a trained life coach, psychologist, or educator? Nope. One weary, single mom, offering suggestions from years of experience.

Exchange of services, including for babysitting

Need a way to find a babysitter that won’t cost $10 to $15 / hour? Not sure where to start?

  • Try your clergy, your neighbor, your alumni association, a local college. Well, you’re thinking, there’s no trading off kids in that scenario. True enough, but you could trade services.
  • Talk to people when you’re out. Be friendly. In line at Starbucks or Caribou. At the library. In the pediatrician’s office. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who can help, and whom you can help.

Are there skills you might trade with a college or graduate student? Absolutely! Perhaps it’s proofing, editing, Spanish tutoring, web site design suggestions. Believe me – you have skills, and they have value. Exchange them for something of value to yourself. Something like a little “me” time that will keep you healthy and sane.

Angels

There really have been angels on my life and the lives of my children. There is a remarkable woman in my neighborhood, a piano teacher, who gives lessons to my younger son. Free of charge. She also made arrangements for us to get a piano at no cost. We didn’t have one, and I certainly couldn’t afford it.

This wonderful individual has been teaching my teenager for 18 months. He adores her; she adores him. She is an angel to both of us, and in his own way, he is an angel for her. Unlike the little ones she’s used to, he wants to be there. He practices for hours each day, has begun composing, and has made remarkable progress in a very short time. She pushes him – hard – and surely she senses that she is influencing his future. Tremendously.

Angels are real. We are each other’s angels.

So what can you do with an hour or two and no money?

Think you can’t renew with an hour or two?

  • Even an hour is enough to browse a local bookstore, sit and read (without buying), watch people, write, or simply wander the aisles and poke around whatever is of interest.
  • That same amount of time would permit you go to a nearby department store and meander. Try the perfumes. Chat with strangers. Have your make-up done for fun. (It’s free.)
  • Or, talk to no one. Sit on a bench with a thermos of coffee you bring from home, and watch the world go by. No one is asking anything of you. (And remember to leave the credit card or check book at home – if I can do it – you can do it!)
  • No mall nearby? Take your thermos and a paperback and go. Walk to a nearby park. Sit, sip, watch, read. Breathe. Be part of the world in the most unobtrusive way. Free of charge, while you charge your own battery.
  • Perhaps you enjoy massage, but you can’t afford it. Furs for perfume. Perhaps you try a masseuse at a local hairdresser who might exchange a 30-minute session for practice with English as a second language. Or learning to crochet, or bake. Get creative. Trade. Ask.

Another thought? I used to be an avid quilter. I find it relaxing – especially the design and piecing of the top. I always quilted in small bits, and by hand rather than machine. That made my sewing portable, and also, when we use our hands, we seem to naturally unwind.

If you can use your hands to make something, consider it. Knit. Embroider. Knead bread. Try origami. Fold forms from paper and make a mobile for your babies!

A final word on how you spend your time

Even now, with teenagers, I’m a single mom with no “backup.” It’s not as crazy as it was when they were little; it’s crazy differently. I feel like I’m always on duty, or at the very least, on call. But over the past few years, I’ve slowly taken back chunks of time for myself. Probably not enough, or often enough, but I’m doing it. It’s good for my kids, and it’s good for me.

Even if all I do with that time is sit in a bookstore and watch, and write – I’m close enough to be accessible, I’m less isolated because I’m around people and movement – and that is the stuff that nourishes us as people, and fuels us as writers.

Last resort? Host a Latvian. Maybe you’ll find one who can babysit! And yes, hungry foreign students certainly add to the food bill, but the laughter alone is worth its weight in gold. Or rather, dzintars – and the irony in that? It is precious currency indeed, and it means Amber.

******

Wolf, I am deeply grateful for this thoughtful–and thought provoking–guest post/extensive comment.

I know that I have many angels surrounding me.  Many friends who would be willing to step in and give me a break.  But, I usually hold back because I don’t want to be a burden.  With these ideas, though, I feel a surge in confidence.  I like bartering.  Both sides win.

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Alone Time? Me? No Way!!

A few weeks ago I was feeling down.  It had been one of those mornings.  I was physically and spiritually worn out.  Wolf, in her peculiar way of knowing my moods, e-mailed me and asked me how I was doing.  She also suggested that I click over to her blog.  I did and read a thought-provoking piece entitled Do you know your body’s rhythms? While reading, I puzzled over how Wolf knew what I needed to hear that morning.  I also thought about how her post, though fabulous, could not apply to me.  I don’t have the time to figure out my body’s rhythms.

Since I was feeling whiny, I asked Wolf how I can follow her advice.  She, in her usual sage manner, wrote back with an amazing comment.  Reading her words inspired me.  I instantly e-mailed her and asked if I could re-post her comment on my blog.  She not only said yes, but sent it to me as a whole new post.  Yes, she is incredible.

For any woman/man who is feeling tired, worn out, and just plumb tuckered, Wolf has provided us with an amazing array of remedies.  Especially for those of us who are short on cash.

In order to give her post all the attention it deserves, I am breaking it up into 2 different segments.  Think of it like a cliff hanger. I love a book with good cliff hangers.

Without further ado, please welcome Wolf of Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy.

How to get a moment alone (and what to do with it once you get it) Part 1

Love your family, but enough is enough?

Losing your sanity? Don’t want to admit it? Sorry. I have no 12-step program, no quick fix, and not even a chocolate giveaway to take your mind off things. But I will tell you you’re in good company. The reality for most mothers, unless you have help – and I mean real help – there is never enough of you to go around. It’s true for stay-at-home-moms, for work-outside-the-home moms, for do-it-all-moms, and all the other variations of motherhood whose classifications don’t matter whatsoever.

And if your budget looks anything like mine (the UnBudget), a trip to the day spa (with pricey sitter at home) just isn’t in the cards.

Maybe you’re married and the husband works extra hours, or goes to school at night. Maybe you’re a single mom with little to no time off (for misbehavior). Whatever the scenario, don’t feel guilty for wanting a break. You need one. Consider it a sign of mental health.

But what do you do when you’re constrained by lack of money or help? No bucks for a sitter. No family to assist. Now what? Run away from home? Most of us have considered it at one time or another. But shhhhhh. Don’t admit it to the kids.

Sanity networking, furs for perfumes, and thanks for the angels

Say what? Yep. I believe in sanity networking, furs for perfumes, and angels, as follows:

  • Network (the “it takes a village” concept)
  • Exchange of services (good old fashioned barter)
  • Angels (they’re everywhere, and they look like us)

A support network is essential. If you’ve lost yours following a relocation or divorce, do whatever you can to rebuild. (Some ideas follow.) Simply put – you need people to help give you relief. A network of trusted “villagers” – other parents, teachers, students, neighbors.

Remember barter? You give me this, I’ll give you that? According to some sources, barter systems date back to 6,000 BC. Long before there was money, goods and services were exchanged. My furs for your perfume. And at an even more basic level – your hunting and fishing for my giving birth (not to mention, fabulous cave painting). Believe me, you’ve got skills that someone can use, and they’ve got skills that you can use. Barter!

As for angels, I’m not channeling Travolta in wings, nor the Sistine Chapel. Not even the backers of Broadway musicals. I’m talking about everyday people who are kind and give, for no reason except that it feels good, it’s helpful, and they can. The fact is – we all can. We can be angels for each other, perhaps by listening when someone needs an ear, or by helping a stranger who is lost. Perhaps in that “exchange of services” way I just mentioned.

I hope I’ve been an angel in my own way, and I’ve certainly run into my share in recent years. Angels are not defined by age or gender, by religion or even spirituality. They simply understand that we are a human community. And when they see someone who needs help, if they can, they help.

Haven’t you been an angel? I’m guessing the answer is yes, if you think about it. And if you’ve been on the receiving end, you pass it along when you are able.

Specifics

Just so you know where I fit in this picture (yes, this is the part where I establish my credentials), I am the mother of two teen sons, now 18 and 17. I was technically married for many years. My (then) husband traveled, a great deal, and we had no family in the area. I worked a full-time job (close to home), then a full-time job from a home office while being “full-time mom” to my boys. Helping other mothers with pickups and free time is the stuff that gets you through. I was often the “helper,” for many years.

Following divorce, layoff, and a move, my former network fell apart. Things got challenging very quickly, and frankly, I was in the robotic zone for months (years?) as I scrapped for project and freelance clients, raised my kids, and tried to keep myself semi-sane and semi-healthy. Somehow, I thought I ought to be able to do it all – if I just tried hard enough. Listen up, please. It’s not possible. No one can do it all alone. Furthermore, I don’t believe we are meant to. And nor is it the best thing for our kids.

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Guest Post: Natalie

I am so happy to welcome Natalie from boingerhead.

I found Natalie months ago and have been hooked since then.  She writes about her children, her job, and social issues with wisdom and wit.  I will laugh my butt off one day and ponder her powerful words for hours on end the next day.  She provides a great balance between light and deep posts.

I know you will enjoy this thought-provoking piece (and hilarious cartoon) as much as I did (do).

*********

being the change

By: Natalie

I once told my mother that my goal as a mother was to give my children better than I’d had. She didn’t speak to me for a month.

I haven’t had a good chance to share my Golden Rule of Parenting: When in doubt, do unto your children as you would have foster parents do. It can be a life-saving mantra to repeat during critical situations or an ego-saving one during emotionally charged situations. The ego and life being that of the child, by the way.

Scene: After I spend an hour trying to motivate six people to get out the door, Hippie Child says she is ready to go Downtown. She is wearing orange and black striped arm warmers, a red hoodie tank top with a gigantic monkey on it, blue leggings, no socks, and sparkly sketchers a size too large. Her hair was in a half ponytail, half dred thing. It is December; it is bitterly cold.

WW[iw]FPWD? What Would [I wish] Foster Parents Would Do?

Scene: The twins are up all night after pooping an array of colors Crayola would envy, and one of then jack-knifes back in to my face. I am sure my nose and glasses are broken. The little imp turns and gives me a huge smile as if to say, “wasn’t that the best ever? Let’s do it again!”


WW[iw]FPWD?

Scene: I discover a brand new box of confectioner’s sugar, mostly empty, in the back of the someone’s closet after a slumber party. Also missing: my ability to not throw up at the thought of eating an entire box of confectioner’s sugar.
Why WW[iw]FPWD?

My contention is that parenting comes in fractions. There is the parent I thought I would be before I became a mother, and then there is the parent I actually am. Half again is the parenting style I developed after I had a second child and the parenting style I’ve settled into after the twins. Half again is the parenting decisions that keep me up at night. It’s crazy.

Sometimes I have to stop myself and consider – what would I wish someone else would do in my shoes, with my child, in this situation? Not just a stranger in their lives for a moment, but someone other than me or their dad tasked with shaping and molding them into a productive, happy citizen of the world?

Why do I need an acronym to be a better parent? Shouldn’t just looking at the faces of my angels be enough to inspire me to Donna Reed levels of perfection? The truth is that sometimes that’s just not enough. Sometimes, I need a little more than that. Sometimes I need my husband to check me or to push me, and sometimes I need to resort to making up ridiculous acronyms in my head just so I can sleep at night over the decisions I have made.

Scene: Full-Disclosure Child is watching me make cereal for the babies. I added a little formula and a little cinnamon to the mixed oats with banana, and she said something I will never forget. “When I grow up and have babies, that’s just how I am going to make their cereal.”

My children, and my children’s friends, are learning from all of the adults around them. The words that come out of my mouth influence these children in ways I can’t think of; the choices I make impact their lives on every level. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what tools I use to be a better mother. The point is that I am trying to be a better mother all the time.

What Would I wish Foster Parents Would Do?

If it came to pass that someone other than myself was raising my children, I would want that person to always put the emotional and mental development of my children before what is convenient and popular. If the Hippie wants to walk around like a regurgitated 80’s mallrat, well that’s yearbook gold right there. If I need to put the babies in their cribs to cry while I stick my head in the freezer for a couple minutes, their little psyches can take it. Perhaps I did throw up in my mouth at the thought of someone eating a box of confectioner’s sugar, but the stomachache they surely must have had after that is better punishment than any lecture I could give about honesty, waste, and drawing ants into my house.

It all comes back to giving our kids as good as or better than we got from our parents. When I made that comment to my mother, I didn’t mean to imply that she hadn’t done well as a mother. Quite the contrary. I simply meant that it was my mission to take all the good she had done and keep it going. She put her health and any kind of social life aside to give me and my sisters all the material things kids growing up in the 80’s and 90’s could want.

But, my mom also worked midnights because it meant more money and slept through a lot of my adolescence. I don’t fault her for that decision because she was doing what we all do on some level: using her motherhood to make up for a lack she experienced in her childhood. That was all I meant by my comment. It’s my job as a mom to do better for my kids than I had. I missed my mom; in lieu of pricy toys and gadgets, I shower my kids with as much individual attention as they or I can stand.

Scene: I am curled up on the couch experiencing remorse from eating fish sticks. The Hippie comes up and spreads a blanket over me. She sets a glass of water beside me. Her brother brings me a chocolate heart he had been saving and, even more touching, relinquishes control of the remote.

WW[iw]FPWD?

I say, “I am the luckiest mom in the world to have two great kids like you.”
They say, “Yep, you sure are!” before scampering back to their regularly scheduled programming.

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Can I Change My Name?

Like Melanie J, I am having an identity crisis.  It’s true.  Ok, hers involves her blog and mine involves my name.  Still.

Amber.

So original.  So plain.  I know like thousands of Ambers.  Frankly, I’m ticked off at my parents.  Why couldn’t they have named me something cool?  Something like Ambrosia? How many people do you know named Ambrosia?  None?  That’s right.  Sure there is that band named Ambrosia, but I would much rather be named after a band than a beer.

If I really want to make my mark on the blogging world and become famous and all that jazz, I’m pretty sure a change of name is needed.

I know, I know I talked about going to Amber because I’m a survivor of depression, but seriously people.  You know you liked Ambrosia so much more.  Doesn’t that name sound like a clever person?  An exotic person?  Let me tell you all about the differences between Amber and Ambrosia.

Amber

-doesn’t like crafts

-hates seafood

-thinks all animals (except for fish) are disgusting to keep as pets

-tries to be funny

Ambrosia

-loves crafts!

-cooks fabulous meals (a la The Kitchen Witch)

-has a couple dogs for the Queen to play with (but no cats, sorry)

-is witty, wise, and wonderful!! (3 w’s people!!)

Amber is like the plain bagel without cream cheese while Ambrosia is the really awesome bagel with lots of cream cheese.  (I think cream cheese is the best part of the bagel.)

Sigh.

I guess I need to accept my name and move on.  I can at least warn all the future parents out there.

To All Future Parents:

Please be considerate when naming your child.  They may grow up to resent the name, and you, and legally change their name to something cooler.  Like Chad Javon Johnson changing his name to Chad Ocho Cinco.  Just keep that in mind.

Signed,

Someone who wishes her name was Ambrosia and not Amber.

At least my name has a really cool 311 song attached to it.

Please tell me that you struggle with your name too.  It would make me feel better.

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He Wasn’t Planned, I Promise!!

Mr. B and I stroll into the park.  He holding Manly and me chasing after the Queen.  We laugh at the Queen’s antics and giggle at Manly’s chubby cheeks.

Soon enough,  a mom and her toddler son enter.  She engages us in a conversation.

“How old is your baby?”

“3 months,” I respond.

“He is adorable!”

“Thanks,”  I say.

“How did your daughter adjust to a new sibling?”

“Fine.  She is young enough that jealousy issues were nonexistent,” I proudly answer.

“That’s wonderful!”  She looks down, works up her courage, and tentatively asks “how far apart are your two?”

I blush and slowly respond “14 months.”

With astonishment she quickly exclaims “Wow! You are brave!”

“Well, he wasn’t planned,”  Mr. B interjects.

“You are brave!” is only one sentence of many that we hear too frequently.  Others include, “Boy are you busy!” and “You sure have your hands full!”   These statements don’t bother me too much.  It is the feelings they evoke,  the responses I, or B, inevitably give that pierce my heart.  I feel as if I should wear a shirt that says, “He wasn’t planned! I promise!!”

I wonder why.  Why must I feel the need to apologize?  Why must I lie? That’s right, lie.  Why must I falsely accuse myself and my husband?  Accuse us of not planning?

We did plan.  Our plans were to wait until the Queen was older before trying for another baby. We just forgot to plan for contingencies.

When the Queen was 6 months old,  I felt that something was changing in my body.  My concerns were validated when the Queen refused to nurse.  I whispered my concerns to B one night.

“Hon, I think I’m pregnant.”

“Why don’t you take a test?”

“I am not ready for that yet.  I’ll wait to see if my period comes.”

So I waited.  I waited and waited.  Nothing.

I finally decided to take the test.  Just to be sure, I took two.  Both said negative.  As silly as this may sound, I felt betrayed.  I was 99% sure that I was pregnant.

The next morning, B called out to me–“Amber, you’re pregnant!!”

The lines were faint.  The test needed a few more minutes to confirm my suspicions, but I had been impatient.

I was ecstatic.  It’s true.  I was so happy that I would soon be welcoming another charming baby into our household.

At the same time, I was frightened.  I did not want to share the news with the world because I didn’t want to hear what people would say.  Initially, I only told those whom I knew would understand, friends that would be happy for me.  But, I get too sick to hold any pregnancy secrets.  All too soon the moment came for us to tell our families.

“Do you know what causes that?”  many asked.  My joy turned to sadness.  That was when we started to tell people “I promise, he wasn’t planned!”

The thing is, he was planned.  He just came sooner than we expected.

I have matured.  Matured enough to stop apologizing.  When I hear people remark on their closeness I now respond with, “I know! It’s awesome!”

And it is.  It really is.

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