gratitude-a-thon day 585: when you can’t help

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Shopkeeper Bidur Giri, 51, stands by the remains of his store, next to Sandesh Aryal, 10, in the village of Sangachowk.

While the news from Baltimore is disturbing and sad, and seems to be the result of a serious problem our country is having with police and young black men, the news from Nepal is utterly devastating. Not that there is a need to grade the horrible, but really, Nepal has me reeling.

When an impoverished area is hit hard, it feels such a smack in the face. Like Mother Nature is pissed, and just blowing off steam. I read the articles. I see the images of history destroyed, people’s lives in shambles. They roll over me like a rainstorm. What can I do? I know I can send money, and I will, but somehow it feels bigger than that. I’d like to let those people know I care. Would it matter? It would matter if they let me know they cared, if I lost everything.

What is it that the average American can do besides send money? I would like to send love along with a check.

I will carry those people in my heart. That’s the best I can think of.

My cousin who once lived in Nepal believes Global Giving to be a quality fund to send money. Sending your love is free.

gratitude-a-thon day 584: what powerlessness can do

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At least it was peaceful in Baltimore last night.

I’ve watched the coverage of that city for two night now. Riveted by the images, the people, looting, fires, fear.

Don’t think a white woman living in a privileged town may understand what living in inner city Baltimore might be like, or having an act of police brutality kill a man in your neighborhood? Don’t think I can feel the kind of powerlessness an act like this could result in?  But I can.

Because I’m human.

What I don’t fully understand is how powerlessness makes a community turn on itself. The fires and looting of the previous night took resources from this community that intercity Baltimore is already sorely lacking in.  Do those residents feel so unempowered that they think, “What the hell does it matter?”

Last night’s moving image of people linking arms standing in front of the police line as a buffer from the protesters made me cry. It seemed this was the real heart of this city, trying to strengthen and protect.

At least it was peaceful in Baltimore last night. Amen.

gratitude-a-thon day 583: “the visit”

logo-2 Round two: college visits. Give me strength. And maybe a new pair of sneakers. It was novel the first time. Also, it was in sunny California. So there was that. But this time around, we’re doing East Coast, and the weather is still trying to make its way out of the dreadful winter of ’15, but I digress (and if you’re smart, you don’t want to get me started on the dreadful winter of ’15). Back to the “we’re walking, we’re walking” tour of higher education. You could be all cynical and talk about what an unbelievable racket it is, College USA, but I won’t go there. But what I will say is that the stress of finding the right college, is like the stress of finding the right mate, and with one out of two marriages ending in divorce, you get the picture, right? College is important. Let’s face it, it’s the price of admission at this point, but the kind of insanity that juniors and seniors in high school feel is only slightly bigger than the insanity their parents feel in the face of not only trying to find the right college for their offspring, but also in finding the money to pay for the right college for their offspring. And since my daughter hates when I even mention I have a daughter on this blog, I will speak from my own point of view, on the college process, part one: “the visit.” images-1 Colleges are going hard these days, trying to get you to commit. They may or may not want your kid, but they definitely want your money. There are inspirational films that tout the “family” feeling, the “excellence,” the superiority of a said college. I’m a little Scorcese when I watch these films of smiling kids and campus beauty. I work in marketing, and am one tough audience, so you had better give me honest and compelling, if you want to turn my head. It’s the rare film that has me screaming from my seat, “Take my kid! Here’s a check! I’ll leave her today!” I’ve found the admission’s person who makes the pitch, I mean, “welcome speech,” is often surprisingly not the best representative of an institution. This is your first contact with the school, so like I’d be all looking for someone with the intelligence of Einstein, the charm of Ellen Degeneres, and the charisma of Bill Clinton, but often this person couldn’t convince you to use the bathroom after one of the extra large bottles of Smart Water, let alone pay $60,000 a year to attend their school. This is a conundrum to me, that they don’t have George Clooney doing these talks, but they don’t. images-4   Wear comfortable shoes, and layers. Because you’ll be walking around campus, where the weather could be anything from “I’m about to strip down to my bra” all the way to “I wish I had my sleeping bag coat.” Your tour guide has been chosen for his/her mass participation in all things College. It’s usually like, “Hi, I’m Lillian, I’m from Lake Springs, Arkansas, I’m on the swim team, where I swim an eight second mile. I also sing in an acapella group, called “You Glow, Girl,” am in charge of the gluten free division of the dining hall, teach Chinese at the homeless shelter in town every night, and I help to raise awareness of gun violence at our school’s shooting range.” My son would be great at this, but you know, you can’t say, “Hi, I’m Jake, a psych major, and I’ve been at every party ever given at USC.” It probably just wouldn’t fly. Anyway, after you walk a mile or two or three, at a slow pace, you will ache because of all the standing around. If you were to walk the same amount without all that standing, everything would be fine, but all that standing is a killer. Lillian will try and make jokes, but mostly she is not funny.

Some schools who are well endowed, will give you “stuff” ranging from fat brochures, to shirts, pens, pads, and folder with their mascot emblazoned on the cover. This loot will hang out in your child’s room until they make “the decision.” You realize this may be why they charge so much for college. You’d like to suggest they don’t give away so much loot on “the visit,” and lower the tuition by $10,000 per year.  The car ride home is sometime silent, which can mean any number of things. It can mean your child has found the college of their dreams and is fantasizing about what it will be like to become a freshman there, or it can mean they are having a wordless panic attack over the fact that they have just met C.O.D. (college of dreams), and do not have the grades or scores to go to school in The Promise Land, and are thinking of ways to rewrite history. Advice: Do not say “I told you so,” now or at any point during the college process. I’m just telling you, you  will send me an engraved thank you note for this advice. Sometimes the car is loud, with chatter, things they liked or didn’t like, some understandable, and some inconsequential, or with music, to mask the scary and complex feelings “the visit” has brought up about having to leave home.  Often a kid just needs a little Kanye to make right. tumblr_mtrty9S2y31rue873o1_500 I maintain that for every kid, there are a number of great colleges and universities out there. It is not a prince charming situation. There is not just one right school. Getting the SAT’s and GPA’s to line up, and the geographical location to meet your child’s needs, and the essay written, and the stress level under control, are much harder, bigger problems. Keeping your sanity will help your child, who can become Sybil’s more attractive sibling at any moment during this process. Take your valium, I mean, do your meditation, and get down on your knees and pray to the Saint of Admissions. Remember to breathe and pace yourself. It’s a long process. You’re probably going to need a bigger boat. sybil   And at the end of the day, or I should say, tour, thank your lucky stars you live in a country where college is a choice, where your kids are lucky enough to be able to take these tours, and have the opportunities that will leave them unemployed after four years, and $200,000 (not really, but sort of). And, there it is, the gratitude.

gratitude-a-thon day 584: sort of ok

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Parenting is hard. And it’s crazy. And it’s really hard. Oh, I already said that.

But the thing is, it’s just hard. Oh, I said it again.

But it is.

I fully believe most parents are trying their damnedest to give to their kids the good stuff, the best of themselves, everything they never had that they wanted, and everything they were given that was gold. We read awful stories about parents that do the unspeakable, leaving us with our mouths hanging open to our knees, curious how these parents can even be called people. But more than not, I think most parents are all trying to give their kids the tools to have a happy life.

I mean, right?

But just because you’re trying to be a good parent, doesn’t mean you always have the all the answers as to how to be a good one. I do not. I do not have all the answers. Sometimes I’m like a brand new white board from the office aisle of Target.

Parenting is not like a serene pond, or gentle stream, or one of those little fountain things you can buy for your backyard to remind you to slow it on down. I mean, there are  moments when things are good, even great, but those are quickly swept away by the next fork in the road, the next real or perceived crisis, the next big decision. Parenting is more like a day of surfing. You’re in the water, you’re getting on your board, you’re up, you’re up, you’re up, engrossed in the exhilaration, the view, the beauty…… and you’re down.

Sometimes you’re on your game, and you know all the answers. You’re confident that every word out of your mouth is just right, that your guidance is pitch perfect, that you’re direction is spot on. Other times, you’re stumped as to how to handle a situation correctly. You flip through your mental encyclopedia, and find it completely outdated, or unreadable, or worst of all, empty. You flounder, fidget, stall for time, wondering where you’ll find the moves, the words, the wisdom.

Eventually you do. You figure out what to say, how to act as your child’s personal sherpa, and you dole out your guidance, hoping that 1) you are right 2) your kid is listening,  partially listening, or even just pretending to listen.

Lately parenting has become particularly challenging. I have to think more. I continue to give it my all, but some days seem to be one long math class (my WORST subject, and the source of endless nightmares, plus a summer of hives). On those days, I remember one thing, and that one thing is love. Go ahead and pull out your Hallmark violin, but I love my kids with a deep dive intensity, an all-in ferocity. I know I will always keep trying to find the right answers, the best Mapquest directions, the smartest GPS routes. Even when I feel like that person who bet everything on the final Jeopardy question and loses it all. Because that’s what you do as a parent. You just keep looking for the right answers.

And  sometimes you go with whatever it is you have. And that seems sort of ok. Not perfect, but sort of ok. Because some days, sort of ok, is just what you got.

gratitude-a-thon day 583: the bravery to be who you are

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The Bruce Jenner interview with Dianne Sawyer was kind of amazing. Who would have thought anybody from the Kardashian clan could teach us something really important?

Bruce didn’t dodge any questions, didn’t allow silence to dominate, or shy away from giving full answers. He spoke honestly about a struggle that has plagued him since he was a kid. He spoke about dressing up in his mom and sister’s clothing at age 8, and not understanding why, but knowing it made him feel good. He spoke about his marriages, his sexual preferences, and his truth, which is that he feels inside he is a woman, and always has been.

To be born in the wrong body must be impossibly hard. But to be a high profile, public person, known as “the world’s greatest athlete,” starring in the biggest “reality” show on television, being part of the most public family in the country and feeling like you were born in the wrong body, must be like a small elf sitting just inside your head chipping away at your brain 24/7. As Bruce said last night, “I had the story. We’ve done 420 episodes, I think, and the entire run I kept thinking to myself … the one real true story in the family was the one I was hiding.”

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It was his story, but now it’s our story. And it’s up to us to learn from Bruce Jenner more about what it’s like to be transgender. And I love that. That he is giving us the opportunity to learn from his pain, and his path. I love that he is no longer hiding, and is finally, this morning, living life as who he feels he is. I hope he feels a deep sense of freedom waking up today, knowing he no longer has to hide.

Bruce says he knows he is helping the LGBT community by coming out. But I think he’s also helping anyone who is struggling with being who they are. This may be a story about being transgender, but I think it’s really just a story about having the bravery to live your own life. Thanks, Bruce. By being who you are, you give us the courage and the permission to be who we are.

gratitude-a-thon day 582: small bites friday, baby

Shonda Rhimes, I do not like you one little bit this morning. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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I think I too could be at this picnic (and damn, I wish I was, aren’t these women FABULOUS) and isn’t this unfuckably hilarious.

It seems like more women have been sexually abused by Bill Cosby than not.

Wait, what? Glad I didn’t have to do this for extra spending money in college.

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My magnolia tree is in full bloom. Take that Winter of 2015.

If you can’t keep your zipper shut, at least keep your mouth shut.

When I talk about wishing for year round warm  weather, this is not how I want it to happen.

And the college tour continues. Next up, Colby & Bates. “And we’re walking, we’re walking.”

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Beautifully done, powerful stuff.

Sweatpants in public. Yes.

Truthfully, best bathing suits EVER. They cost more, but last for YEARS. Cross my heart.

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gratitude-a-thon day 581: fucking right

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This morning a fourth friend messaged me informing me, via this article, that those who love to swear do not do so because of a poor vocabulary, a disdainful character, or a “Mommy Dearest” upbringing. Turns out we “emotional” folk, who like to say “fuck” are actually thought to be more attractive, confident about what we think, and better able to manage our stress. Take that judgmental haters.

Anyone who reads this blog or knows me for approximately 4.3 seconds, is aware that I have a deep and abiding love for the four letter word. I admire the world class flexibility, acrobatic agility, and all around good nature of the “F” word, and have been known to string some foul and nasty words together in an effort to get across my point.  I am the real life “Deb” (you know, Dexter’s sister).

I know that letting a profanity fly in the wrong face is a no-no. And I have on occasion, misjudged a situation, and let my loose lips go the distance, but what the fuck, you win some, you lose some. My work partner shudders when I swear in front of a client, (which I occasionally do), or a class we’re teaching (which I also occasionally do), but I believe in some cases, it makes my audience more comfortable. I am making a judgement. I’m almost always right.

The truth is that I’m a pretty passionate person. When I swear it’s generally to emphasize something, or to make someone laugh. A cuss word used as a retort, or to amplify a retort, can be pretty damn funny.

I was raised with the NYT, and The New Yorker. I know plenty of words I could use in place of an obscenity. My penchant for swearing is just a part of me. And apparently, it makes me hotter, so like, I’m not going to stop now.

The following is from the Richards family, who lost their eight year old son Martin, and whose seven year old daughter Jane lost her leg in the marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.

I am grateful such people exist in this world.

I am sorry they have had to lose so much. I believe they are right, and hope the death penalty will not be the sentence for “the marathon bomber.”

Thank you for sharing your bravery, courage, and humanity Bill & Denise.

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To end the anguish, drop the death penalty
In Bill and Denise Richard’s own words

The past two years have been the most trying of our lives. Our family has grieved, buried our young son, battled injuries, and endured numerous surgeries — all while trying to rebuild lives that will never be the same. We sat in the courtroom, day after day, bearing witness to overwhelming evidence that included graphic video and photographs, replicated bombs, and even the clothes our son wore his last day alive. We are eternally grateful for the courage and life-saving measures of first responders, Boston Police, the Boston Fire Department, and good Samaritans on April 15, 2013. We also thank the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice, and the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office for leaving no stone unturned during the investigation and trial.

But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.
We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.

This is a deeply personal issue and we can speak only for ourselves. However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us, but from all Americans. We honor those who were lost and wish continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.