Gratitude Saturdays March 31

It was a pretty good week.  Odd, but it’s difficult to pin down why a week was better than another.  Yet there you go.  Enjoy you seder to all who partake.  Happy Passover.

  1. my ability to read fast when I’m trying to finish a book in two days
  2. my ereader for easy access to books
  3. google maps for when I get lost in the city I’ve lived in for 30 years
  4. University of Chicago for best intro letter ever
  5. WordPress scheduler
  6. Rusty Staub.  You were one of my favorite baseball players.  RIP
  7. Final Four (go Nova)
  8. Opening Day baseball 2018
  9. Mets win on opening day
  10. The ability to say that the Mets are in first place
  11. Having cash when you realize you are at a cash only restaurant
  12. Aloe tissues
  13. ointment to heal my burnt finger
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“Like”

I’m going to do a little weaving experiment.  I’m going to take two different thoughts and try to put them together.  Let’s see if this works.

Warp: There’s a Frasier episode where a focus group listens to his radio show.  19 people love the show, one doesn’t.  Frasier is unable to accept the fact that one person doesn’t like his show.

I think we all want to be liked.  I’m guessing it’s a survival instinct: if people like us, we are more likely to survive.  Most people do not go out of their way to be miserable to others (except my MIL who will go to ends to make my life a living hell)

But has liking become an obsession?

Have we made the “like” button essential to our self confidence?

Weft: I was recently talking to a blog friend. We discussed how difficult it can be to write about personal issues, because we don’t know how it will be received by our readers. We worry about being liked if we share too many things about our lives.

I try to be very honest in my blog.  I am trying to accept myself, be happy with me.  This starts with honesty.  When I write I share my frustrations and vulnerabilities.  I share my high points and the things that make me happy.  I do this at the risk of being mocked, of being scorned, of being debased.  Yet, I do it anyway.

Why?

Because I spent a good deal of my youth being dishonest.  Dishonest with those around me, but more importantly, dishonest with myself.  I was so intent on being liked, that I would morph myself into what was expected of me.  I tried to be the daughter my parents wanted, the sibling my sister wanted, the friend, the girlfriend, the roommate…You get the idea.  I tried to be everyone except myself.

This is not a good lifestyle choice.

Then one day I decided that I was good enough just as I was. (score one for maturity and wisdom with age)  I didn’t need to be anyone else.  I needed to be me, whether or not people liked me.  People liking me wasn’t going to help my self esteem if I didn’t like myself.  So I began my journey to be true to myself.

When I blog I tell you how I’m feeling.  This is not easy:  exposing yourself to the world is not easy.  But it makes me stronger.  Every time I tell you how I feel, I feel a little better about myself.  This is me.  This is who I am.  Accept me, don’t accept me.  It doesn’t really matter what you think of me.  I know what I think of myself, and I like it.

 

Here’s My Interpretation…

Imagine you’re reading something. (for example- this blog) You read my words, and sometimes you read exactly what’s on the page.  But sometimes, do you ever start to bring your own interpretation onto those words?  Do you read the word “happy” but start to weave what happy means to you, as opposed to what precedes and follows the word “happy” on the page?

Interpretation.  Two people may read the same thing, but get two different meanings from it.  This happens often in literature:  it’s why we have book discussion groups.  There’s more than one way to look at anything (half full/half empty).  But this can get us into trouble.

I often read a word or phrase that I know absolutely nothing about.  Thanks to the internet Gods, I am able to find out the meaning with relative ease.  Knowing the meaning helps me understand whatever it is I’m looking at.  I don’t have a pre-conceived notion or idea yet, because it’s a new concept.  I start with a blank slate.  No interpretations.

But what about words we know the meaning of?  Words we hear and read and use every day?  When you use a word all the time, you start to have a definition of that word in your mind.  The problem is, your meaning may be different than someone else’s.  This can cause miscommunication.  You’re both using the same word, but you each are interpreting it differently.

I like to argue discuss things with people.  Very often, I will ask someone to define a word they are using, so I know where they are coming from.  This happened recently when I was having an argument  discussion with someone about school dress codes.  This woman argued that girls should have to adhere to a dress code so they don’t “distract” boys.  I asked her to define distract, because to me, saying something is distracting in a classroom settings opens up a whole big can of worms.

There’s a funny bit that jimmy Fallon does on “The Tonight Show” . He puts common songs into Google translate so it comes out in another language. Then, he takes the translated song and plugs it back into translate, and then has a singer sing the new song. (I swear it’s funnier when you watch it) The point I’m trying to make is, after going through translate twice, the words are not even close to the original. It becomes a bad interpretation. The same words become mangled and you can’t understand them.

Words are extremely powerful.  We must all learn to use them very carefully when we are speaking. But we must also be careful to listen to the words presented to us.  We must read things with an open mind and try not to carry our backstory into everything.  In standardized tests, students are expected to answer questions based on the passage provided: they are not supposed to bring in background knowledge.  It’s not a bad idea to go into conversations as if you know nothing.  Look at every conversation, every reading passage as a chance to learn something new.  Look at every verbal interaction as chance to get rid of preconceived notions.  Listen to the words presented, really listen, and then make a decision.

I think there are many communication issues these days.  I don’t know how closely people listen to one another, that they’re often not listening, but just thinking about how they’re going to respond.  So here’s your homework:  have a conversation (real- not on a text or an email) and really listen to what someone is saying.  Ask for clarification if you’re unsure.  Try to completely comprehend their unique point of view.  Don’t interpret what they’re saying. Listen to them.

 

 

 

Act Your Age

Most of you know my oft mentioned example from writing class.  When I was showing my work to my writing class I received contradictory criticism: one person said my characters acted too young, while another said they acted too old.  Then I had a real life situation with the same idea- I perceived someone as acting old, while my husband thought the same person acted young.  So I began overthinking it, and now I present you with my somewhat muddled thoughts.

In the case of my story, the four female characters (late 50’s) were perceived as too old to be talking about sex and their sex lives, because women in their fifties don’t do that.  Someone else thought they were too young to be sitting around a table drinking tea and eating a tart because women in their fifties were to young to do this. Do either of those things exemplify old or young?  Personally, I’ve talked about sex with my bestie female friends. (I know- you’re shocked to learn this tidbit about me).  I also spend a decent amount of time drinking hot beverages with my friends and perhaps having a nice, baked good.  I’m older than some, younger than others, but is my behavior odd?  (again- tread lightly with this questions)

Now, the real life example.  We have a friend S.  I think S acts old because he has absolutely no idea about popular culture.  He doesn’t know the more popular books, movies, television shows or music. He is pretty unaware of what is going on in the world today.   My Husband thinks S acts young because he likes to barhop on a Saturday night.

Which of us is right?  Well, probably neither of us.  Because there is no formula for what makes someone old or young. What makes someone seem old, or young, is in the eye of the beholder.

My family calls me old because i love to watch “Murder, She Wrote” reruns, but my daughter thinks I’m young because I kick butt at spin class.  Old because I am able to get an AARP card, young because I can’t wait to see Pink next month.  Do any of these things make me old or young?

So- it’s the day I ask all of you to write my blog.

What traits make you think someone is youthful for their age, or what makes you think someone is old for their age?  Are there certain traits that distinguish young from old?

 

March Writing Update

I finished my writing class a few weeks ago.  On the whole I found Fiction 2 very helpful.  I thought my teacher did a really great job at teaching us how to move a story forward.  I think it was a good decision for my to take this class, though I am opting to not take a class this semester. I may take one again in the fall, but I know my free time is lacking over the next few months, and I am loving working with my informal writing group consisting of women I met in class.

I’m working on rewrites of my novel.  I’m about halfway through, and the biggest thing I’ve realized is that I need to listen to my gut feelings about things.  Getting feedback from readers is extremely valuable, but sometimes it’s not always advisable to make the corrections they think you need.  Sometimes, their opinion is based on their particular life circumstances.  When receiving feedback you need to really disseminate the helpful form the not so helpful.  For example, when I presented work to Fiction 1 class, they gave me suggestions.  When I incorporated the suggestions and presented it to Fiction 2, their critique was that I should have done it differently (more like the way I originally did it)  Maybe my first draft wasn’t well written, but the idea behind it was solid.  I just needed to rework my idea.

I have learned that I have a very macro approach to work.  It’s most noticeable when I critique my writing group works.  I’m finding that I’m clearly focusing on the arc of a work- looking for the beginning, middle and end.  I’m more focused on making sure the characters have credible growth or non growth throughout the work.  I am less focused on the micro aspects when I’m first reading.  In my mind, the outline has to be solid before you start focusing on sentences and word choice.  I’ve seen people write beautiful sequences, but they have no rhyme or reason as a whole work.  I’ve become to think of it as a writer writes things, an author tells a story.  I don’t know if this is right or wrong, I only know it’s how I feel.

My next bit of self discovery deals with emotions.  Remember a few weeks ago I talked about how I’m a numbers girl trying to be a writing girl?  Well, I notice that when  I write I am stingy with emotion.  I think that’s part of my analytic, logical gene poking through.  I know I can be emotionless in many situations: I have to get past this when I’m writing, especially as I’m writing a love story.  Love stories should include some sort of emotion.

On the advice of my writing teacher, I am waiting to look for an agent.  He thinks I should have a solid second draft that includes all the plot holes I have discovered.  I think he’s right, so that gets pushed off for at least two months.

And then there’s my blog, which I still love writing, and look forward to writing every day!

So get out there and write!!

 

 

Don’t Say That

Back in the day George Carlin did a comic routine about the seven words you couldn’t say on TV.  TV has rules.  Well, I have rules:  there are words we’re not allowed to say in our house, and I think they are way worse than those seven words.  These are my version of profanity.  Use at your own peril.

  1. Boring/Bored: My favorite quip is “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” If you utter any variation of this word in my house I will find you something to do.  There is no reason to ever be bored.  Bored equates to lazy as far as I’m concerned
  2. Fine: I hate when people say they are “fine”.  I know the definition of fine according to Dictionary.com starts out with fine quality, but I don’t refer to that meaning.  I refer to the second definition which is “good”.  It’s such a boring way to refer to anything.  And you know how I feel about boring.  Also, I find when my family responds to something with “Fine” they are actually annoyed.  I’m annoyed cause they used the word.
  3. Nice:  Really?  You can’t give me a better description.  ‘How was the party?’ ‘It was nice.’  Tell me how the party was.  Loud, lacking food, overly decorated, give me real words.
  4. Interesting: Empty word.  What makes it interesting.  What is a novel idea?  Was it done in a totally new way? Do you not like it but are trying to be nice?
  5. Urrgg: I know I’m stretching it, calling this a word, but I just hate when I say something like “Set the table for dinner” and the response is Urrgg…
  6. Mommy:  I remember how I longed to hear my Daughter say Mommy.  And that first time was joyous.  But three days later, after the millionth time, I was very tired of the word.  Please make it stop!
  7. Honey, Sweetie, Snookums, or any term of endearment that precedes a request from my Husband that I will not like, or do not want to do

Week in Review- March 18-24

Another week in the books!  Here’s a little wrap up of my week:

What I Listened to:

Claude Debussy: Treason- Oriental Influences for Flute and Piano

Lucy Dacas- Historian

Yuja Wang

Grateful Dead- The Best of The Grateful Dead (Live- remastered)

Borns- Blue Madonna

Romeo Santos

Esa-Pekka Salonen- Memoria

My Fair Lady soundtrack

Apollo Fire

What I Watched:

“Call the Midwives” (I know- I’m late to the party.  Love)

Queer Eye (I miss the original Fab 5, but still love the concept)

New York International Children’s Film Festival- Shorts Program 3.  My daughter and I have been going to this festival since she was three.  We love voting on our favorite movies.  If I find the program I will list the films we saw.  Our favorite was “Negative Space”.  I know “Geneva Convention” won the category though. (technically last week, but…)

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“Instinct” This could become my new favorite show.  I know it’s a golden age of TV, but I like my TV light and easy.  I have home ADD- I can’t just watch TV, I have to watch along with doing something else, so thoughtful TV shows are out of my realm.  This is a nice. cozy mystery starring Alan Cumming.  Seriously perfect for me.

“Keep the Change” I love indie movies, my Husband doesn’t.  Recently, he found out about an amazing Italian place across the street from one of my favorite indie movie theaters.  Sometimes it’s a win/win.

What I went to:

Angela Hewitt performing Bach’s :Goldberg Variations”.  She is an gorgeous pianist, but I have to say the first two thoughts after the 90 minute no intermission performance were 1) Wow.  She has that all memorized.  and 2) look at how stiff she is when she got up from the piano.  That takes a lot of stamina

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Cooper Hewitt  Saw “Access and Ability” exhibit which was a cool exhibit about the functionality of design and “Bob Greenberg Selects” which was just his curation of tech objects in our world.  This is just a fun space and cool if you have kids and are visiting. (technically this was last week but I didn’t mention it because I was in a lousy funk last week and didn’t feel like writing about it

What I’m Reading:

Finished “Portrait of a Lady” ( I actually liked this book when I first read it 30 years ago.  Not so much on the reread)

“A Piece of the World” Christina Baker Kline (remind me not to have my two book clubs meet within days of one another…)

Funnyish part of week:

My daughter has applied for three summer internships so far (the other four are in the works of being sent out).  I thought she would definitely get called back for one of them:  she didn’t.  I thought she had no  shot at another: so of course she got an interview.  So another moment that I literally know nothing.  But- she did get an interview with the one she really wants, which was almost a disaster because she didn’t get the first email they sent….

Random Question (getrandomthings.com)

Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous? Infamous maybe…  But, my cousin plays lead guitar for a fairly popular singer, but that’s borderline if he’s famous or not.  Otherwise, no.  My family is utterly unremarkable.

Stitchfix:

Yay!  Very happy to love my box.  Yes- I am obsessed!!

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Gratitude Saturday

Hmmm.  Let me think about this past week:  snow, no school (which meant my daughters SAT was postponed),wicked Sinus headache, I burned my finger on the hot coil in the dishwasher in attempt to fix dishwasher (it’s the middle finger so there is some sort of poetic expression in that) and my movie friend was sick so I didn’t get to go to a movie.  So I set up a task to be grateful?  Ha.  But I try:

  1. Sinus medicine
  2. Clair De Lune (seriously one of my favorite pieces of music ever)
  3. An email saying “NYC Public Schools will be open tomorrow March 22, 2018”
  4. Lavender (me and lavender are is a serious relationship)
  5. google docs
  6. Fandango so that my family could buy tickets for the new Avengers movie which premieres 6 weeks from now
  7. waterproof boots
  8. the building doing seasonal maintenance on the air conditioners the day the Nor’easter blew into town
  9. we didn’t get as much snow as predicted
  10. my water bottle
  11. Dream Gym – silly game app that totally made my week
  12. Coffee with blog friends (not an app or game- actual event)
  13. actually fixing the dishwasher, which leads to:
  14. dishwasher
  15. Firefighters: NYC lost a firefighter this week (in the line of duty), and he was a close friend of my Husband’s co-worker. My Uncle also his lost his life as a firefighter.  I can not begin to express my gratitude to the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday. No sarcasm, only extreme and heartfelt thanks.

No Gifts, Please

I have an odd relationship with physical gifts.  I know- you’re wondering what I am talking about.  ‘What does she mean by physical gifts’ you think.  Who doesn’t like gifts?

I am not a minimalist in the true sense of the word: I do not go full Gandhi and own a bowl, a spoon and a sari.  I have material possessions.  I have way too many possessions- an apartment filled with stuff.  But I am constantly trying to reduce what I own- there is always a donation bag in the corner of my dining room which gets dropped off on a bi-weekly basis.  Before I buy something I mentally go through the following checklist:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Does it fit my lifestyle?
  3. Do I have a place to store it?
  4. Do I love it?
  5. Will I regret not buying it?
  6. Am I only buying it because it’s on sale/good price?

If I have answered “yes” to the first five questions, and “no” to the last then I probably buy it.  But every purchase I make has to pass the test.

So, let’s jump to physical gifts.  Someone gifts me a vase.  I look at my mental checklist and the answer to my questions is “no”.  What do I do with the vase?  Well, first I try to exchange it at the store for something I do like.  If that is not possible I donate it.  Honestly, I didn’t need the vase entering my life.  Honestly, I didn’t need the gift.

“But it’s a gift” you are all thinking.  “Someone gives you a gift out of the goodness of their heart” you say.

I say bull.

Personally, I think many people receive gifts the that giver thinks they should have.  I think many gift givers are somewhat selfish.  I’ve seen many people receive clothing that they would never wear: completely different style than what they normally do.  When the giver was buying the gift, did they think about what the person wears, or are they thinking about what they want the person to wear?  I will use my Mother as an example.  When my daughter was three years old, and my social life consisted of Gymboree classes and group dinners with other parents, my Mother bought me a hot pink, silk blazer.  Lovely item.  It did not fit my lifestyle at that time: it was way too formal for anything I participated in.  My Mother said to me “You can wear it to a PTA meeting.”  Now, I’m sure there are people that get really dressed up for PTA meetings.  I am not one of them.  PTA meetings at my daughters elementary school were held at 8:30 in the morning, after drop off.  I was lucky to be showered at that point, much less wearing an outfit that consisted of a hot pink silk blazer.  My Mother didn’t understand that I didn’t spend two hours getting dressed in the morning to attend a PTA meeting.  She gave me a gift that was something she wanted to see me wear, not something that was good for my lifestyle. (To be clear- my Mother has done this with every present she has ever given me- she thinks about what she wants me to have, not what I want.  Honestly, rather just have a card)  Also, I have seen my guy friends do this with the women in their lives.  I have seen them purchase heels, and sexy clothing, as well as hiking gear.  I have see my woman friends buy their husbands fancier clothes because they don’t like what their husbands wear.  These are all nice things: they just weren’t nice for the people receiving them.  Have you ever received an article of clothing that wasn’t your style at all?

I think gifts can be seen as an obligation, sort of like, I spent money on you, so you need to like me.  Someone gives a gift, and they expect something in return.  That’s not why you give a gift.  That’s not why you do anything.  You give something to someone because you want to.  You give a gift that will please the recipient, that has meaning to the recipient.  When you give a gift, it’s not really about you.  Well, it shouldn’t be anyway.  Have you ever given a gift because you wanted something in return?  Have you ever received a gift that came with strings attached? (and I don’t mean bows and ribbons)

I will tell you the gifts that I do cherish and love.  My birthday always falls around Mother’s Day, so every year my daughter writes me a letter.  I hang these letters up around my vanity in my bedroom.  My Husband usually gives me a spa gift card because he knows that I love a spa day.  These are the things that are important to me.  These are the things that make me happy.  If I really want/need something on the expensive side,I don’t expect it as a “gift”- I talk to my Husband and if it’s economically feasible I just buy it. (to be clear- the jeweler is not on my speed dial- the majority of my jewelry is costume.  My last expensive purchase was my desk chair, and even that wasn’t egregious)

So to sum up this VERY long post:

  1. Are you giving a gift that is the style of the recipient, or something that they want?
  2. Are you expecting something in return for the gift?
  3. Have you ever received a gift that was not your style or hated?
  4. Do you think you only deserve nice things if someone else buys them for you?
  5. Do you think I’m just a wee bit crazy? (tread lightly!!)

 

 

 

Mother/Daughter

My Sister was in town recently, which as I’ve told you, means I saw a bit of my Mother.  She usually has something to say about our parenting skills (again, you know how much I like people talking about my parenting)  My sister and I have always been open about talking to our daughters about sex (age appropriate).  The conversation went something like this:

Mother: I don’t know why you have to talk to the girls about sex

Me: Well, it’s a natural thing.  I want daughter to learn the right things and not have hang-ups.

Sister: Yeah.  I don’t want my kid to feel shame when thinking/talking about sex

Me: Totally.  The way you taught us left me filled with shame.

Mother: No it didn’t.  I was very good about teaching you those things.

Sister: No you weren’t.  I felt shame too.

Mother: No you didn’t.  I did it the right way.

Me: Mom, if we’re both saying the same thing, you have to at least consider that what we’re saying is correct.  You tried, but we’re telling you that your method didn’t work.

Mother: Yes it did.

I know parents make mistakes.  I’m sure my daughter has a list that she’s waiting to spring on me.  But I HOPE that I can acknowledge when I made a mistake, when I did something wrong, especially if my daughter tells me.

My Mother is a know it all (seriously- she makes me look like an amateur) Whenever someone says anything, she knows better.  My daughter mentioned that she wanted to look at a certain college.  My Mother immediately said, “That’s in a bad neighborhood.”  I asked, “When were you there?”  My Mother said “40 years ago.”  Now I realize that some things stay the same.  But guess what?  Some things change.  My Mother had no basis for her statement, but she will say it loud and repeatedly.

I really know that my Mother has my best interests at heart.  I know she says things in order to help me out.  But here’s the problem:  her statements are not always logical, factual or realistic.  She will read one article on something and declare it the absolute law, because it backs up her beliefs.  She will not even consider another opinion on pretty much anything:  there’s her way or no way.  And she has opinions on everything.  My daughter wanted a certain type of make-up brush for Christmas, which I bought her.  As soon as my Mother saw it she said “You don’t want to use that.  It’s horrible.”  Had my Mother ever used this item?  No.  Does she know anyone personally that used this item? No.  She just didn’t like the idea of it.  I told her that sometimes people need to try things out themselves- learn from experience.  She just shook her head at me.

See, that’s another issue with my Mother’s parenting skills.  She gave us a road map as to what we should and should not do.  She told us exactly how to proceed through life without teaching us how to make a good decision.  She never taught us to think about our actions.  We all know this is bad.  We need to make mistakes.  We need to get hurt.  We need to get dirty.  I know my Mother did these things out of love because she didn’t want us to feel pain or hurt.  But guess what, you still feel pain and hurt, because those things are unavoidable.

My Mother gave us the facts that she thought were important, not the facts that we needed.  And I have accepted that she didn’t know any better.  I have no issue with the fact that she made mistakes.  My issue is that she refuses to accept that she made mistakes.  In her mind, she did everything right and would not have changed her parenting choices at all.  This is why it is difficult to have an adult relationship with her.  She still tells me all the things I am doing wrong with regards to everything, and still tries to give me directions on how to live my life.

Yes, today is blog as journal day.  Today I randomly write down things that annoy me about my Mother, because it is somewhat cathartic to write the words down.  When I write it down, it releases a little something in me.  I feel a little bit better.

And as always, I often wonder why I am so screwed up, and then I spend some time with my Mother, and I wonder how am I so normal.