Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Destressing for the Holidays

These days, it's hard not to feel the pressure to get it all done for the holidays.  As moms, we want to be all and do all for everyone.  The media tells us that we need to be Martha Stewart, Marilyn Monroe and Mrs. Claus all rolled into one, or we are less of a woman/mother/etc.  Do I need to explain that?  Martha Stewart because we should all be able to bake 20 different kinds of perfect cookies without ever burning one and we should all be able to create a beautiful museum-worthy gift out of toothpicks and toilet paper;  Marilyn because we should all dress sexy and be a goddess for our significant others; and Mrs. Claus because who else is going to buy all of the presents and wrap them in time for Christmas or Hanukkah.  Certainly not - gasp - our husbands?

I am not immune from feeling the pressure of getting everything done.  Every year around Halloween, I start to feel guilty because I haven't pulled the holiday cards out of storage and started writing them out.  By Thanksgiving, I am breaking out in hives when I think about updating the address list for the cards.  I start to keep lists of people to buy for and begin to wonder if my neighbors really like the cookies I give them.  I ask myself if the gardener really needs a holiday card or will he notice if I don't send anything. 

I tell myself that I will clean the house "next weekend" and get those decorations up.  I put off calling the photo studio for a sitting time, believing that I will have time to get the girls showered and cleaned up and be able to take a few cute pictures before they crawl away and scramble off the couch.  I worry that there is some long forgotten teacher's aid or school official that I will need to include in my gift giving and I fall asleep at night watching dollar signs float by instead of sheep.

This year was no different.  If you look on my phone, you will see several lists in my Notes app of holiday gift ideas and people that I still need to find the perfect present for.  If you look in my purse, there are several handwritten lists of things that I need to pick up at the store and cookies that I want to bake.  My iPad has lists as well, people who need gifts and others that I want to remember this holiday season (including the gardener, the exterminator and the crossing guards at school.)  In addition to B's teacher, I opted to say "Happy Holidays" with small gifts for the directors of Child Care at school (since B spends 1/2 of each day there) and the counselors who hand the first graders, and spent a few moments stressing over what to get each of them.  I made up a cookie box for the crossing guard that we see each morning and have a few things tucked away for some of my neighbors.  I'm still stressing about the holiday card address list.

Despite all of this pressure, I've also decided to scale back a bit.  I read something on a post a few weeks ago, that part of doing all for all includes realizing when you can't do it all and being o.k. with letting those things go.  I took that little bit of advice to heart and started to reevaluate what I could let go.  First, the holiday cards - I am resigned to the fact that they will not get there before Hanukkah or Christmas.  I am working on New Year's cards instead.  As for the long list of people who I feel compelled to give gifts to, I've scaled that back as well.  The gardener will do without this year and while I may send a holiday card to the exterminator, he will have to do without that gift card for dinner as well.  The neighbors don't need 10 different varities of cookies to go with the festive bottle of (cheap) wine I got them.  They might get 1 or 2 kinds of cookies and a fun tin of candy (on sale at Wal-Mart) to go with it.  I also decided that the holiday decorations and lights that I had were enough.  Maybe next year I can plan ahead and put more up, but at this point, no one is really going to notice or miss it if I don't have lights across my garage.

I really took a chance this year and left town the weekend before Christmas.  Yes, that's right, I chucked it all and flew to Phoenix to hang with a few friends.  We baked cookies and got to just hang out and catch up, something we haven't done in a few years.  I came home to a massive pile of gifts to wrap but at least I was a little less stressed.  I'm treating myself to a massage here and there (taking advantage of a few gift cards and credits that have piled up) and I'm working on being more accepting of my limitations.  The kitchen may get a little dirty with flour and sugar and the floor may not get vacuumed as often as I'd like, but I'm o.k. with that.

As the day slowly turns to another night of Hanukkah, another candle to light and another present to open, and as the last few days before Christmas wind down, take a minute to stop and breathe.  Ask yourself if anyone but you will notice that there aren't as many cookies.  Does anyone but you really think that the neighbor's cat needs a present?  Or are these pressures that you can do without, things that won't add to your family's holiday, but will cause you stress and remove you from the wonder and joy of the time.  I hope that you, my friends, take a minute, or two, or ten, for yourselves.  Sit down, have a glass or mug of whatever makes you happy, and just be.  Enjoy the moments and revel in the peace that it brings you to let it all go.

I, in the meantime, will be cleaning my kitchen, wrapping the last few gifts, working on G.G.'s present which needs to be finished before tomorrow night, uploading pictures to various electronic gifts, baking 3 or 4 kinds of cookies, making chocolate candy, ... and oh wait.  What was I talking about?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Passing Judgment

Last night I had a strange dream - OK, let's face it, most of my dreams are strange.  This was not a "people-walking-around-with-heads-cut-off" strange, nor was it a "Pink-Floyd-on-acid" type strange, but rather, it was an "I-was-dating-Ashton-Kutcher" strange.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because in my dream, I was dating Ashton Kutcher.  But that's not the main reason.  While the details are a bit fuzzy (as dreams tend to be,) I can tell you that I was with Rob (married, kids, etc.) and then for a brief time frame was with another guy (Rob, nowhere to be seen) and then towards the end of the dream, (before Brooklyn came in to ask if she could wear a particular shirt to school) with Ashton.  It wasn't just that I was with him, it was how I got there.  As myself in my dream, I realized at one point that I could not remember the past few months and it was within those few months that I had gotten rid of Rob and ended up with Ashton.  (Isn't it interesting how time moves in weird fashion in a dream? In the course of one night's sleep, I went through several months of life.  I told you it was strange.)

My point. What was it again? Oh.  As I began to piece together what had happened over the 2 lost months, I realized that my friends and other people that I knew were judging me for being with Ashton.  Some were judging me for the way that I broke things off with guy #2 (which I didn't remember) and some were questioning why I was no longer with Rob.  The people who were around me and questioning me and judgment me were friends from both high school and college.  I felt like a pariah and couldn't walk through a room without peoples' eyes on me, accusing me of being less than socially acceptable.

At one particular point, I sat down next to a friend from college (who I don't see or talk to often in real life) and asked her if she was mad at me too.  She replied that she wasn't angry or upset with me because of what was going on with the men in my life, but she was upset that I hadn't called or gotten in touch with her over the past several months.  I confided that I had no clue what had gone on the past few months, that it was almost as if I had fallen asleep with my life being a certain way and woken up with things all messed up. (If you could call dating Ashton Kutcher "messed up.")

A little later in the dream, he and I were supposed to be playing in some kind of a golf tournament and he was getting more of a cold shoulder than I was.  Apparently people were holding him more responsible for the state of our affairs than they were willing to hold me.  I could feel the stares at my back and hear the whispers all around me.  At one point, he put his arm around me and told me to ignore everyone - something often easier said than done.

Sadly, I don't know how my life with Ashton turned out, as the shouts and calls of real life invaded my sleep and I had to open my eyes to face the world (and the 6 year old standing next to my bed holding up a shirt.)  But the dream got me thinking about human nature and what it was to judge our fellow man (and woman.)  We see things in the paper every day - stories about celebrities or sports figures, information about what they are doing or have done, and we judge.  We place ourselves into their lives and make statements based on how we think we would have handled a particular situation.  But are you ever really equipped to make such a statement without actually walking in their shoes or standing where they stood?

A cousin once said "you can't be a parent without being a hypocrite."  I couldn't agree more.  I used to stand in judgment of people who put their children on leashes.  I said that they should know better how to control their children and a leash should not be necessary.  I judged them and I said things about how I would act in the same situation.  Then I found myself with a 2 year old who would not stay with me and would run everywhere.  Yes, I put a leash on her.  Granted, it was a cute, doggy back pack with a handle that she wanted to carry, but it was a leash.  And it was the only way that I could keep her from running away from me, into traffic or around a corner to get lost. 

Another judgment that I used to make was of parents out late at restaurants with young kids.  I would see them sitting there eating, children in high chairs struggling to stay awake or throwing food because they were upset.  I would judge and say that the parents should not have kids out that late, that they should be home in bed.  And then I had kids.... and a job... and a husband with a job... and gymnastics class or t-ball or soccer after school.  Then I would blink and it was 7:30 at night and we hadn't eaten yet.    With no food in the house or no energy to make dinner, the nearest restaurant is a great option.

It is always easy to say how we would handle things ourselves, or to judge someone else for what they did.  The tough part is to actually be in those situations and figure out if you really would do something different.  I sometimes get comments from people about how much stuff I have in my house.  It's frustrating because I do notice the piles and I do wish that they would go away (the piles, not the people.)  Part of the problem is that I don't have a place to put some of the things that are filed up (like baby stuff that hasn't been given away or put in storage yet.)  Sometimes it is just a function of not having time - I could read the girls a story before bed, or I could put away the clothes.  I could put my clothes away or I could get some sleep.  Things are a trade-off.  But I wonder how these people who judge my stacks of books or clothes or other evidence of daily life would do in my shoes, with my pressures of life.  Many of the ones who comment don't have children and I wait to see how they will handle kids of their own. Maybe they will be one of the lucky ones who can manage to keep a house clean and clutter free even with two children running around.  Odds are, they will find themselves staring at a staircase full of books and things, just like at my house.

The point, if there must be one, is to be careful about who and how you judge.  You never know when you might find yourselves in a similar spot.  The man with the sign at the freeway off-ramp might have been a corporate executive yesterday who was laid off.  The person handing you your McDonalds on a tray might have a PhD in astro-physics but can't find a job.  The tired looking mom at the table next to yours with 3 kids might be struggling to make it through the day.  You simply have no way of being able to tell.

 And one final note - I myself am still guilty of sometimes passing quick judgment on my fellow man and woman.  On the plane home on Sunday afternoon, I took a seat next to a woman who was traveling alone.  I recalled seeing her boarding the plane ahead of me with some help, but didn't think anything of it.  She asked me a few questions as we prepared to take off and I wasn't sure what to think of her.  My mind started to filter through possibilities and hoped that it wasn't someone who would "bug" me the whole hour and 15 minute flight.  Then the woman turned to me with a confused face and asked for help with her seat belt.  She told me that she had a stroke recently and that her memory wasn't what it used to be.  She also could not remember if the bag sitting in the seat between us belonged to her (which it did.)  All of my judgments flew out of the window as I helped her with the belt and confirmed that the bag must be hers, as it wasn't mine, and I returned her smile of thanks.

  Before you pass judgment on someone today, stop and ask yourself if you have all of the facts.  Do you know everything that there is to know about this person and their particular situation, that would allow you to judge them.  Odds are that you don't and that you shouldn't.  Think about this as well - just as you are judging someone near you, what are the odds that someone else is judging you?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today's Breaking News...

Los Angeles, California

Sources quoted from the L.A. County District Attorneys’ Office said today that charges will be filed before the end of the week against Mr. Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas, President and CEO of North Pole Enterprises, stemming from allegations of assault and battery against several area housewives. Sources stated that investigators at the DA’s office have been combing through several years worth of police reports, each claiming that Mr. Claus broke into homes and assaulted women, in some cases repeatedly kissing them, before escaping through open windows or out the front doors. Many of the reports were filed by children of the women who then refused to speak with police when contacted for follow up and some claims are reportedly from the late 1950s. The sources indicate that these attacks seem to happen in December each year and the number of reports spike each January.

Mr. Claus has not been reached for comment, but some officers of North Pole Enterprises, who spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity, claim that the pending charges are a result of more recent claims by high profile celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Reba McEntire, John Mellancamp and Disney’s The Cheetah Girls and argued that without such high profile claims, the charges would not have even been filed. Others claim that the reports are all cases of mistaken identity, given the fact that suits similar to those worn in public by Mr. Claus can be found at many retail locations.

LAPD records show that police reports were also filed by Frankie Valli, Travis Tritt (a noted Country music artist), the group Twisted Sister (each member claiming that their respective mothers were attacked by Mr. Claus at a holiday party) and a joint report filed by the Jackson 5. In a slightly shocking twist, it was discovered that Ru Paul filed a report against Mr. Claus claiming that he attacked and kissed Mr. Paul’s father.

It is unknown whether Mr. Claus will be allowed to quietly turn himself in following the official filing of the charges or if he will be arrested and booked at the Central Jail downtown. Some employees interviewed at North Pole Enterprises stated that this was an incredibly busy time for the company, which increases its toy production by over 150 % in the months of October, November and December. Mr. Claus is known for his hands-on approach to business management and it has been reported that Mr. Claus often works alongside his employees to make sure year-end production levels are met. If Mr. Claus is arrested or asked to turn himself in prior to December 25, several employees worried that production requirements might not be met and they would not receive their holiday bonus.

This is not the first report of allegations against Mr. Claus. Several years ago, PETA and other animal rights organizations publicly spoke out against Mr. Claus for cruelty to animals. It was reported that Mr. Claus kept several reindeer at his factory, utilizing them to pull heavy loads of toys and other products. PETA members claimed that Mr. Claus overworked the animals and fed them only carrots donated by local school children. Mr. Claus was also the target of claims by Elves Union 226, which represents much of the workforce at North Pole Enterprises, who alleged that Mr. Claus violated state regulations regarding overtime and mandatory employee break times. The Union also claimed that Mr. Claus cared little for the health and welfare of his employees, offering only candy canes, gum drops and other sugary confections in the company’s cafeteria vending machines. The Union voted for a strike two years ago but withdrew the vote following a confidential settlement with the company which many believe included an overhaul of the company’s cafeteria.

Unnamed sources close to North Pole Enterprises have also indicated that Mr. Claus is the subject of another ongoing investigation of bribery and allegedly taking favors in exchange for yachts, diamond jewelry from Tiffany’s, deeds to penthouse apartments and blank checks.

Tomorrow’s report: rumors circulate as to whether or not Justin Bieber is actually an elf, formerly an employee of North Pole Enterprises.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Value of Friendship

Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded a few times, in a few different ways, of the value of friendship.  My first reminder came on Thanksgiving Day.  I spent my day as many of you probably did, watching the parade in the morning, snuggled on the couch with the girls.  Oh wait - I watched part of the parade from the couch - the other part I watched from the kitchen as I baked pumpkin pies.  Mom came over before dinner and we spent some time just catching up while going through the ads for Black Friday.  As we got ready to go to dinner at my brother and sister's house, I gathered up my things along with my cell phone and noticed that I had a voice mail.  Cell reception in my house is notoriously bad, so I wasn't surprised that the phone had not even rung.  But I was surprised at the message.  It was my friend Arran, someone I have known for almost 20 years (as strange as it is for me to say that.)  We met in college when he came to visit a friend who lived in the same dorm as me and I was hanging out with friends in the guys' hall.  Despite the usual ups and downs of our respective lives, the passage of more than 15 years, countless moves to several different states, various boyfriends, girlfriends, break-ups and a marriage (mine,) we have stayed friends.  He was even in my wedding.  We have survived much that life has thrown at us and have shared much of our lives with each other.  Not always as it has happened, but there have certainly been some late night and early morning (thanks to the time difference) phone calls.  He was there when my life hit a particular low, one of the first people that I called, and I was able to be there for him when his Dad passed away, something that I know was incredibly tough for him. 

Through it all, I am happy to say that we have remained friends.  So why was this a reminder to me?  Because sometimes I think that some of my friends do a better job at "friendship" than I do.  His call was just to say hello and tell me that he was thinking of me and wishing me a happy holiday, "love" to my family.  It was a wonderful message and I was touched.  At the same time, I was a bit ashamed because, for all of the times that I might think of him and wonder how he's doing, how many times do I pick up the phone and say hello?

My second reminder came last week, again through my cell phone.  It rang and I did not recognize the number and was up to my elbows in Kensi's toys and fun.  After putting her down for a nap, I checked my voice mail.  It was my friend Val, just checking in.  I met Val back in 2007 through a random set of circumstances.  I registered for a weekend scrapbooking event in Anaheim and through various online discussions, connected with several other women from Valencia who were also going to the event.  We met up several times before the event and have remained friends (albeit some closer than others) since then.  Our little group has added a few members here and there and a few children since 2007, but we still get together to scrapbook and check in on each other.  Val's husband has a job that requires moves from time to time, and so in 2010 (I think,) we had to say goodbye as she moved to Texas.  We've tried to stay in touch and she has visited a few times, even staying with me.  Despite the distance and the random start to our friendship, I count her among my closest friends.  Her message was just to say hello and to tell me that she as thinking of me.  She was also wondering if I had started my holiday baking yet (I have and my freezer is running out of cookie room!)  I was again touched that a friend would reach out to me, just to say hello and again ashamed - another person being a better friend to me than I might be to her.

The next day I sat down and wrote her an email.  I apologized for not getting her call and told her how much her friendship means to me, even though I may not get the chance to say it that often.  I hope to do a better job at connecting with my friends, using Val's example.

My last recent reminder of friendship was, unfortunately, a sad one.  Just last week, while checking Facebook, I saw a post by a high school friend, saying "good bye" to someone that graduated with my sister, Candy.  Matt Kover was a larger-than-life presence that I remembered well from high school, even though he graduated a few years ahead of me.  Always ready with a joke and able to make the crowd laugh, I remember his big bear hugs.  After reading my friend's post of good-bye to Matt, I scoured facebook and all of my Jefferson connections to see if there was more information.  At the time, there was little.  Over the next few days, I learned that Matt had passed unexpectedly, something related to a diabetic coma or insulin problem.  I touched base with several friends back home who knew him well and was added to his Facebook page where people began to leave messages.  I was saddened by his passing because I think he was one of the good ones - someone who lived his life for others, intent on making people laugh and feel good just to be around him.  I haven't seen Matt in years, but was immediately reminded of him through the posts of his close friends.  Sadly, many posts spoke of time past since seeing Matt and wishes for a closer relationship.

Matt's passing reminded me, again, of the value and blessing of friendships and of the uncertainty of life.  No matter how careful we are or how routine our lives, something can change in the blink of an eye and suddenly our course is changed, our lives are different and someone that we love very much could be gone.  I, for one, am going to make an effort to change - to tell my friends that they are important to me.  It can start with a personal note in the holiday cards, a quick telephone call just to say hello.  I'm lucky to say that I have friends in many states, and even a few in other countries.  I will be reaching out to all of them this holiday season.  I do not want another day to pass without those people knowing that they are important to me.

Perhaps I met you as a child, or in high school.  Maybe we had class together in college or commiserated about professors in law school.  Odds are, if you are reading this, we have maintained a connection and for that, I am grateful.  We may not speak every day, or even once a week.  But I check in on you from time to time.  I see your photos and your posts and I know that you are doing o.k.  I hope to do a better job of just saying "hello" and letting you know that someone is thinking about you.  I hope that if you happen to think about me, you'll do the same.

Let's make an effort to stay better connected.  It sounds cliche, but if I have learned anything over the past few weeks, it is that life can be short.  We should take advantage of the time we have, starting right now.