Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Advice for my Children

I’ve been thinking a bit about the little bits of wisdom that I want to pass on to my children in their growing years, and one in particular has risen to the surface of late:
-Don’t try.

This, of course, counters a common message that children receive:
-You should always try your best.

The reason that I prefer the former message to the latter one is that I think that trying is overrated. One can often hear words of support like,
-Well, maybe you didn’t win, but you tried your best.
-Good try.
-Please just try.

If it’s a “try” and if we’re “trying,” then that suggests that the outcome that we’re trying for is better than any other outcome. It also suggests that the outcome is better than the current moment. And the current moment is all that we ever have. So, we might as well enjoy it. Instead of trying, let’s just do. Forming an intention never hurts, but beyond that, just enjoy what you’re doing. You don’t need to try to win a race. You can just run it. The one exception is that yes, you should try to pee before bed.

Monday, March 26, 2007


This can actually be pretty cool if I let it be. My husband and I, hearts broken open, are venturing out into the world as independents after fourteen years as partners. In our most recent interactions, we are being consistently supportive of one another. Last night, when I couldn’t turn off the tears, while going through the weekly transition of one of us moving in and the other moving out, he was a serene teacher. He reminded me of what my mind sometimes feels hell bent to ignore or forget: Everything is okay right now. Without letting the mind drift forward or back, everything is okay.

I was proud of my husband for making that statement, and for his serenity in dealing with the moment. In past stages of this marriage dissolution process, I have seen him choose to carry the burden of any pain I am going through in terms of “guilt” and “fault.” I have seen him inflate problems that may never be problems…how our kids will be affected by our separation, etc. And I have seen how it has taken him down into despair. Last night, he was doing none of this. His example is important because I can see so clearly how much peace comes from choosing not to inflate problems that may never be problems. We are walking such a similar path as we go our separate ways.

Nothing is a problem until someone chooses to make it one. Our minds make our problems. Last night, my emotional outburst was probably most influenced by two things: 1) I was having my period – I can’t deny that the time of month has a strong influence on me! And 2) I wanted to make a problem where there wasn’t one. It was actually harder for me to have my husband come to the house and seem peaceful and strong than it had been when he was struggling. On a certain level, tears are a power play. The ego part of me that was feeling bad could celebrate a little victory if my tears brought my husband down a notch. But they didn't, and I'm glad.

I think my husband and I both know that my tears are not about him, but are really about me. And that as is the case with all things, whether married or not, I am the one who can choose sadness or contentment in each moment. The last “tragedy” that we went through was one that we went through as a married couple. And it’s kind of neat that when I compare the two processes in my mind, I realize that they are not all that different from one another. We’re still talking, caring, and supporting. The only real difference is that at the end of that, we go our separate ways. Like friends do.

Friday, March 23, 2007

So Here We Go Again

I need to read the paper. It's become painfully obvious that I have no idea what is going on in the world, since I had to cancel my subscription to the Cincinnati Enquirer due to delivery issues (see Obsessions 11/7/2006). My husband told me about a month ago there was an add in the paper looking for a new delivery person for our neighborhood, so I thought, great, the guy has been fired, so I will wait until the new person has established themselves, and I will once again order our local paper.

This week I called the Enquirer circulation services and they said the person on our route has been on the route since 2005, so no, I really can't expect my paper on time, in other words. So as a friend suggested, I should get the NY Times. Not only will I know what is going on in the world, but I will seem sophisticated (which I'm assuming is a joke, especially since I have no desire to seem or be sophisticated). So I signed up on line, and I couldn't wait for the start of my Friday delivery!

I set my alarm last night since my goal is to have the paper read by the time the kids wake up. I woke up to a beautiful warm morning, so I quickly and quietly got dressed and headed outside. Do I even need to say it.....? No paper. I didn't panic, like you might think, I just went back inside, made some coffee and went back out to the front porch with my hot coffee in hand. And I sat down and waited. I waited and waited. I finished my coffee, and suddenly noticed that other people already had their papers, so I was waiting for nothing. Rather than flipping out, like I would have in the past, I went back inside, and invited my husband out to the porch to enjoy a cup of coffee while we have a kid free moment to chat.

Just a short while later, the two oldest kids woke up and they ate breakfast out on the front porch while we said hi to neighbors walking dogs, leaving for school and work. So even without the paper, it turned out to be a beautiful start to our day. I will not obsess again about the paper.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What are Your Addictions?

We all have them, don't we? A friend was mentioning that I might think she has an addiction to Yoga, which is a good thing, right? Some addictions are good, others keep people at a distance, so maybe that's not so good. But who am I to say, anyway?

So what am I addicted to? I think my lack of organization. It sounds wacky doesn't it? But I think it's true. I have a huge list of projects that need to get done, a messy house where little is ever put away properly, and need I mention that the proverbial cleaning lady needs to visit? So imagine a week that I stay up late drinking coffee after the noon cut off, and have the house in great shape. I attacked my list of projects, with the exception of a few major ones and suddenly there is a void in my life and I just don't know what to do with myself.

My sewing room is clean, should I start a new sewing project? The sculpture that a friend asked me to repair a year and a half ago is finished and delivered to her door. The bathrooms are cleaned and the floors are all swept. I have finished reading my books for this month's book clubs. So really, what else is there to do? I suddenly feel like something is missing in my life. It's a vacancy no matter how I look at it. Should we move again, have another baby? Of course not, although easy, those are not the solution. (I spent my college years moving every time I started to feel settled, so this has been going on for a very long time) I think I need to accept my addiction to disorder and move on. Maybe I need to start another to do list or maybe look around at other big projects that I need to complete, but ignore- like the wallpaper I started to strip. Or maybe I should just accept a quiet life, and sit drinking a cup of decaf tea and enjoy the peaceful moments where my mind isn't telling me to do something else. Ah, a dream world, but not impossible, right? Well, I've got to do Yoga before the babies wake up!

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Autonomy by Jayne Martin-Dressing

What I want more than anything right now for my children is a sense of autonomy-a self-confidence that says, "I can do it." What I'm getting a lot of these days is, "I need help," "I can't," "You do it." I'm not talking about buckling the seat belt or putting the toothpaste on the brush (well, okay, I am talking about that too), but something larger, something that starts now in childhood where I have to do some letting go, and accepting that things will be far less than mediocre much of the time. I have come to realize that one of the hardest things about parenting is that I'm not ultimately responsible for every outcome in my child's life-good or bad. It is incredibly difficult not to rush in and solve problems, like the big homework project when a child has made poor choices about how they've spent their time, or when a child is obviously putting his shirt on backwards or the shoes on the wrong feet. We don't want children to ever have a rough spot in childhood these days, even if it means they are gaining a sense of independence.

I hear many conversations at the University where I teach that involve faculty and staff complaining about "helicopter parents." I've been shocked to learn of parents who call their young adult student's professors to explain absences or register for their classes or ask to speak to their advisors. They were so afraid their kid would screw something up that they were still, with children 18 and over, making sure that didn't happen. It occurred to me that creating a sense of autonomy in our children doesn't start in college; it starts with allowing the first grader to take responsibility for homework that isn't complete, and encouraging a 3rd grader to ask for directions in the hall rather than walking him to his classroom everyday. It starts with feeding them what the rest of the family is eating, and reminding them that they're not going to like every meal in life, and yes, they may be hungry later. Autonomy is not to be confused with letting the child make all their own choices (no, bedtime is not an option), but it is about encouraging children to be responsible, to learn from mistakes, to take ownership of their ability to dress themselves, feed themselves, trust their instincts, and be self sufficient individuals. And ironically, this begins with the simple acts of brushing their teeth, washing their hair, dressing themselves. And no, they may not reach all the molars, rinse out the conditioner, or even pick out matching socks, but allowing them to do these things sends them the message that they are growing, they are learning, and they are capable. And we are capable of letting them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Playland Rocks

A guest article from Karen...

I no longer have any reason to lament the loss of the mom and pop coffee shop. For I have come to truly appreciate McDonald’s Playland. What a beautiful example of our evolution as a species. Here you have a play area that is..
  • Big enough for all-out play, but entirely shielded from the elements,
  • Structured so that it is virtually impossible for any child to get hurt – the worst thing that will happen to your child here is that he will absorb the odor of French fries,
  • Complete with open access to child-sized potties and sinks,
  • Conducive to developing kid-sized friendships – fast and furious and then quickly forgotten (I think the size and enclosed nature contributes to this),
  • Flanked by tables that are just perfect for supporting an 89 cent cup of tea and a good book,
  • Sometimes a place where kind McDonald’s employees will bring you free food (I kid you not; after helping a woman with 6 kids into the area, a McDonald’s manager returned with free sample-sized cookies for all the kids at Playland),
  • Also strangely conducive to striking up conversations with other parents – Again, I think it’s the enclosed space and size that brings people together more than your average playground.

Needless to say, we’ve become regulars. It’s nice to have my children clamoring for an activity other than our much-loved children’s museum, which we’ve probably visited about 897,000 times in the last 3 years. Of course, we never buy the food. But the tea there is as good as what you’ll get at any Starbucks. i’m lovin’ it. (Okay, that was too much).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fake Food

Fake Food by Jayne Martin-Dressing

If you’ve spent much time in a grocery store lately, it may occur to you that no one seems to eat real food anymore. Aside from the ever-narrowing display cases of fresh produce, meat, and seafood, there are endless rows of prepared foods in the frozen, dairy, and even more mysteriously, the non-refrigerated sections of the grocery store.

New items appear daily to tempt us into joining the dark side- the slippery slope if you will, of heat and eat. I must admit, I do desire, though am conflicted about, the fully prepared rice dishes and enchiladas at Trader Joe’s. I ask myself, “how hard is it to make some rice and add a few veggies and spices?” Oh, but the wrapping is so lovely (and the thought of dinner in minutes).

But I digress…back to the fake food. The following is a list of items that have made their way into my household mostly by way of my indiscriminate husband who does the bulk of our grocery shopping, and takes on these foods like a new lover. Often I find them in the refrigerator or lining our basement storage shelves staring at me from their over-packaging:

  • Mandarin oranges (can we really call this fruit?)
  • Gogurt (I believe this is a liquid form of cotton candy-I think Cotton Candy is actually one of the flavors)
  • Shrek cereal (giant size Shrek heads made out of marshmallow-need I say more?)
  • Easy mac (was regular mac all that hard?)
  • French toast sticks
  • Frozen Skyline chili
  • Frozen guacamole (????)
  • Mandarin oranges suspended in orange jello
  • Bob Evans egg and biscuits (he didn’t even have a coupon!)
  • Fully cooked bacon (this is grounds for divorce)

I can’t believe my husband and I exist in the same universe sometimes, let alone raise two small children together. But seriously, these are among the mildest of examples of the levels people will stoop to avoid cooking or preparing food altogether. I have seen, though thank God, my husband hasn’t purchased, fully prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Are there people that lazy? I wonder if this is so kids can just feed themselves. Even so, most three year olds can spread some peanut butter and jelly between two pieces of bread.

Maybe there needs to be an organization started to save real food-to prevent the fall of civilization-a La Leche league of real food advocates. How long until someone thinks it’s a good idea, maybe when we use up all the land that used to be fields for growing food, to create some fake version of apples or spinach or other raw foods. My fear is that we’ll we walk around years from now saying, remember oranges, remember peeling an orange, and our kids will look at us like we said, remember eight tracks.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What Motivates People

Another marshkn article (i.e. not from StuntMom herself)...

Today, I’m thinking about what motivates people to take action. Even more than that, what motivates people to take action that feels good down to their core. Is it ever guilt? No, I don’t think so. Is it that the action feels good on some level? Yes, I think that’s it. So, why have I been trying to save my marriage with methods that on varying levels invoke guilt in my husband? The reason he wants to leave is that the marriage no longer feels good to him. The time apart from me has felt better. Hence, he has every reason needed to take action and at the most basic level of self preservation to feel good about it. We humans can overcome a lot of guilt, and indeed often should, in the name of self preservation.

In my “efforts” to save my marriage, I’ve done some arguing. I’ve been taking the same damn approach that I did to the contentious issues that arose in our marriage. Does that make my husband feel good? Of course not.

Today, I canceled the appointment we had scheduled with the lawyer on Monday. My husband was understanding but unyielding in expressing that his mind is made up. It might very well stay that way. Time will tell. In the meantime, I am finished with arguing. I really do want to be my husband’s greatest advocate and not one who plants any seeds of doubt about himself and his choices. I want to do that whether we stay married or part ways. He’s doing his best and doing so many things well. He’s fully shouldered his 50% of the childcare responsibilities (which I have found is the opposite of the pre-formed assumption that people carry in their minds about how childcare is shared in divorce). He has continued to be kind and caring toward me. He has shouldered great responsibilities in his work with conviction and care. He has worked to maintain a healthy, clean, well-functioning home environment. He is a fun and loving dad and our kids adore him.

I’m finished with the guilt, but I’m clearly not finished with the heartache. I’m kind of like one of those drunk drivers who kills someone and then goes around to school auditoriums warning kids of the dangers of drunk driving. My message is different, but the place from which it comes is similar: If you are in a marriage – good, bad or indifferent – I want your primary purpose to be to make your partner feel good, and save yourself from the road I am traveling.

In this process, I think that I have to let myself feel that my marriage is over and work from that point. Since my husband is already there, maybe I’ll find him if I do that. I know I love him. I know that I have felt and seen his soul. And I know that there are many layers now blocking a meeting of our two souls. I have to let my layers fall away and see what happens before I can sign the closing papers on a dissolution. And I have to remember that at this point, I am defining a task for myself and the work is mine alone.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ending and Beginning

This is a guest editorial from marshkn and is NOT an article from Stuntmom who, last time I checked, was happily married.

Last night, I tried to initiate a process to save a marriage -- the marriage between my husband and me. One could say that it was a little late, as the final mediation session to lay out the paperwork for the dissolution is on Monday, a process begun months ago. But that fast-approaching date of our final mediation was what spurred me to approach my husband to ask one more time if he wanted to try to work together to save the marriage. I wanted to be sure to let him know that I was ready and willing. I wanted to present a case for the value of trying together to make a marriage work and, I must admit, to keep our family together for the kids, now 3 and 4 years old. I wasn’t saying that I think it is worth staying in a bad marriage for years and years just for the kids. I don’t believe in that. But I do think I believe in working together to save a marriage once kids are in the picture. Our particular marriage dissolution involves no “other woman” and we are what you would call “amicable.” Yet we did not attend marriage counseling after my husband first expressed dissatisfaction with our marriage. We did go to one joint counseling session, but all that we established in that session was that my husband could not say that he wanted to try to work on saving the marriage. Hence, no more sessions.

We began last night’s discussion with my husband saying that his mind had really not changed with regard to our marriage dissolution. He was pretty much in the same place that he had been on the morning several months ago when he told me that he needed to see a personal therapist to figure out if he wanted to stay in our marriage. And last night, the more I talked, the more I had a feeling akin to pushing someone into a corner. Also, the more we talked, the more hard-hitting were the reasons he gave for wanting to leave. It was as though he didn’t want to tell me those things, didn’t want to hurt me, but felt that he had to do something to get out of that corner, and to try to make me understand that for him staying in our marriage was staying in that corner. He seemed to be saying that if he stayed there, he would feel pushed into “fight or flight” mode again and again, and that the most vital aspects of a married relationship with me feel like work to him. I can clearly see the walls that make the corner in which he stands – they are walls that I know I helped to build.

So, now I am harking back to words in a book I read recently, called “It’s Not You. It’s Him.” It’s actually a good read and does not aim to say that there is anything more inherently wrong with “him” than you. The book is essentially a reminder that if you want a relationship to work and “he” doesn’t, then what is preventing the relationship from working is a reason in him. You can’t change that, hence “it’s not you,” and it’s not even up to you. It might be a problem that he sees with you, but by feeling it as a problem, that’s his issue. Not yours. Let him go. There are definitely other people who will not feel that same problem in relating to you – after all, there are a hell of a lot of people out there! On a similar vein, I read somewhere else that instead of our common mindset of, “If only he/she would change, I would be okay” (i.e. I wouldn’t be angry, sad, etc.), we might want to try saying, “If I would be okay, he/she wouldn’t have to change.” And if I’m okay, I can have a better influence on the world around me. It’s not up to me to save this marriage. My kids are okay. My husband is okay. I’m okay…..
You’re okay. :)