My Daughter: the Terrible Chef

My daughter has grown up in a world where every person she meets tells her she’s beautiful. Because, quite honestly, she is. She relishes the attention, and thrives on the words thrown upon her.

“You’re so smart!”

“What a wonderful singer!” “What an amazing drawing!”

“You should be in Movies!!”

“Why doesn’t your mother put you in pageants?!”

From my perspective, it gets a little old. I wish people would stop, or at least take it down a notch… Or three. There’s no doubt that I’ve thought all of these things myself about her. I’m in love with my beautiful, perfect little girl. I couldn’t have imagined anyone so amazing, and I know how lucky I am every day when I see her sweet face.

Except that I also don’t want reality to slap her in the face the moment she becomes an adult, and people start to get real with her. So, my daughter likes to cook, and I let her. But she’s not good. Yet. And I criticize her very honestly about that fact.

“Baby, it’s too salty. Go lighter on the salt next time.”

And with that, tears. She cries. She’s been ‘cooking’ (if you can call it that, because really, she seasons the food and I manage the blade and fire wielding) for all of a month. I gave her one little criticism– scratch that– I gave her my honest reaction and some advice, delivered, I think, very matter-of-factly, and it resulted in tears and a very emotional “you think I’m a bad cook! I’m never cooking again!”

My daughter is learning a lot from her cooking experiments. She’s learning how to mix ingredients, she’s learning about measurements. On a more emotional level, she’s learning the value of recieving food, and how personal a gift that can be when someone serves you. She’s learning about cleaning up after her messes*– (she’s learning this slowly, however, and it’s a pointed issue in our current, compact living situation). But it’s my hope, that she will also learn how to accept criticism with grace, while still requiring to be treated with respect.

Something that this world needs more of is honesty and accountability. We’ve become a very emotion-centric society, having to delicately dance around everyone’s sensitivities. And while I appreciate, and have a great deal of respect for taking the time to carefully monitor my own interactions with people to avoid the ultimately unavoidable, though often unnecessary pitfalls of offensive or non-tactful retorts, I’m also not going to enable those who’s own character flaws inhibit them from healthfully receiving and processing this information in a way that effectively allows them to understand such feedback.

Some of the best chefs are the ones who earnestly receive input from patrons and consider the validity with an open mind, doing their best to remove personal bias or their own emotion. Soome of the best writers, have good, trusting relationships with their editors, considering, before reacting to changes, the benefits of those changes before allowing themselves to be personally attacked by them.

I personally have a high threshold for– I guess we’ll call it, “pain”– as far as my sensitivites go, meaning that I’m not very easily offended. I’ve had people actually try to tell me when I ‘should have been’ offended about something that I quite honestly never batted an eye to. I try to elicit honest feedback for my work, and this trait has me (for better or worse) always questioning any high praise, because I’m stuck looking for the catch. You know the saying “a spoonful of sugar…”? Well, I take my medicine straight.

My daughter is still learning about criticism; and unfortunately, she hears most of it from me- her own mother. I feel bad at times, but to be completely honest, I’d feel worse if I were constantly sending her a message that in life, success requires merely a positive outlook and good intentions. The reality is of course that real success requires far more than that. It requires failures, and it requires mis-steps. It requires knowing how to get up from those failures, brush yourself off, and try again. It requires resiliency. It requires determination. It is hard. And it is only through doing the hard things, and enduring all of those set backs (and there will be a lot), if you STILL maintain that drive, that passion, and find success through that, you’ll find that the success is even more rewarding.

Because you really, really worked for it- and you REALLY deserve to be proud of yourself.

Parenting Advice 101: There’s NEVER a “Right” Answer

If you consider how many parenting manuals available, it’s surprising that more kids aren’t growing up to be super-successful, contributing members of a utopian society by now.  I mean, the world should be an absolutely flawless place if everyone reading (and applying) those guidelines into the rearing of their children the way the experts say to, right?  Except that it’s not.

I remember well, all of the unsolicited advice I was given from family and friends.  Some with children and (as shocking as it may seem) some without children, all had something to offer on the subject of raising children.  I don’t know if I’m just stubborn, but it all got too ridiculous to deal with.  So I stopped listening.  I stopped looking for approval from other people, and I stopped caring about their perspectives so much.  Ultimately, so as not to be a complete hypocrite, I stopped giving advice as well.

Until one day, I was actually asked.

I have a 10-year-old.  She’s well-behaved, very much a book worm, and relatively calm (outside of her dramatic emotional binges).  She’s honest to a fault, and actually a pretty good kid, except for a few things, that we work on, that still remind me that yes, she’s a child, and as a child is unfit to care for herself completely unattended and this immaturity will continue to display (in hopefully less significant episodes) as she gets older.  So, upon being asked for advice, I was flattered, but also concerned.  Concerned, because these people were relative strangers- I’d met them only that day, and they’d experienced just a few moments of my daughter and her behavior.  So, I thought for a moment, not wanting to break my own ‘no-advice’ rule.  I came up with the following, which I think exhibits well my overall feeling of parenting:

Always be honest– it teaches honesty, and it shows the child that you value them, even in your own moments of imperfection, to treat them with dignity and respect.  The same dignity and respect that you’ll expect from them.  Apologize when you lose your temper, because you will, and one day, they will, and will know that there’s no shame in an apology.  Know that you’re going to screw up the parenting thing.  Don’t expect that you’ll be able to do it flawlessly, because those who think they have flawless parenting, probably will have adult children with a very different story.  You’re going to love your baby for the rest of your life, do what you do in that vein: to protect them and care for them, and you’ll be okay.

Also, this:

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My Answer to “How Are You”

You ever notice how people ask that question? They don’t ask it. It’s just a segway into conversation, like “hi” should be (is). Seriously think about the last time someone walked up to you and asked (said) those words. Was there a question mark? Did they wait for a response? Probably not, but every time I hear it, I hone in on it. I feel compelled to at least consider my answer, but quickly revert back to the response of “good/fine/ok” as I’m undoubtedly expected. But here’s the real answer to that question, phrased according to who actually presented it. In the end, you can see why it’s probably just not a question I should be asked.

From the Ex-Boyfriend. At 2:51am. (Someone’s drunk.)
How am I? Oh, well… I’m tired, stressed out, and perpetually on the verge of tears. The ugly kind. Where your nose is running and your tears are pouring out, mixing with all the rest of your face fluids and you suddenly understand the meaning of: “she’s a puddle.” Because the break up has been hard on me, and even though I try to convince myself that we’ll be able to move on as friends like you want to, I still think about you every day, I still cry when you hug me, and you still drunk text me to ask me how I am (but never any other time), which used to be almost endearing, and now it’s just inappropriate, and I spend the day trying to figure it all out and regressing into some dark hole about how amazing we were and how happy I was and how its all over and I’ll move away soon, putting all of it behind me, but maybe by some miracle you’ll wish I stayed and come after me and I’ll go anyways (because I may be hopelessly in love but I’m not stupid), and you’ll wait for me and we’ll spend a year or two wishing we could be closer, until, one day, we will be.

I mean… I’m fine.

From everyone else.
How am I? I’m exhausted and angry and irritable. I love my daughter and I’m glad that I get to have her with me again after a year of her being away with her father. But I’m so utterly tired of living in a studio apartment where neither of us have space from each other, or our things, which don’t fit anywhere. I’m tired of worrying about making dinner every night and how she probably won’t eat it (every night), or how I’ll have to spend the evening telling her to help me clean up, and then telling her to get ready for bed, and then telling her to go to sleep (and each one of these things will be met with some excuse, or whining, or worse, crying), and then I fall asleep, with her beside me, while she elbows me, and kicks me all night. Until tomorrow, when I get to do it all over again. I love her so much, but I feel bad asking for help… because people seem to think of me in some high regard as some sort of hero. Yes, it’s hard to work full time and it’s hard to take care of a little person and be 100% responsible and simultaneously terrified that at any moment, some person/thing/event will cause some change in her brain that she’ll have to spend the rest of her adult life in therapy to deal with. I’m scared because I know parenting is not a science, and sometimes I think it would be easier if it were.

No, I’m still fine.

Why I Quit Facebook

Facebook has it’s advantages. It’s a great tool for keeping in touch with family and friends who can be dispersed among vast geographic regions. Everything is right there, from first day of school pictures, to announcements of work promotions, rants from folks having a bad day, etc. For me, it was a tool to remove the feeling of isolation I would feel after a hard day at work, coming home to my little apartment, far from any close friendships and no family to speak of in a range less than 1,000 miles. Seems like I’d be the model candidate to really engage, and find some serious value in tools like Facebook. I needed it, right?

Except that every time I’d open the app on my phone, and see everyone elses’ lives moving in their different directions, positive or negative, I felt somehow more empty than I had before. Even more isolated. I don’t know why this was, but I was fighting depression due to other circumstances in my life, and while I hoped that facebook could help me escape those feelings, it really only helped to amplify them. I’m not a psychologist and I don’t know why this is. I would open facebook the moment I woke up in the morning, and throughout the day, the feed would be running on a tab at my work computer. During breaks, I’d use my phone to update my status, or watch whatever video piqued my interest (that may not have been work-appropriate) or read a lengthy post that would have been frowned upon during work hours. In the evening, I’d open the app several more times, before dinner (while waiting on food to cook, or be served, depending on the situation), after dinner, while postponing the necessary clean up, and then again as I was falling asleep. I ensured that I’d never miss a single post by any friends. I would interact with them (not just a habitual fb stalker), and engage in relatively meaningful, relevant debates on current world events. Yet I always just felt so empty.

When I really sat back and took account of the time I spent, it was shocking. Time spent in other people’s lives meant that I wasn’t living in my own. Reading the ignorance in some people’s comments, or the pseudo courage that people would express under the anonymity of the internet, disappointed me.

So, it’s been nearly a week now. No Facebook. If the above isn’t enough explanation, below are the more specific (although primary) reasons behind my needing to ‘go dark’.

1. My life needs my attention. I’m a single mother, working full-time, with a child in school in the NY state public school system. If that doesn’t say enough, add to that:
I live in a studio apartment
I have no relatives nearby, and no close friends, so when I say I’m a full-time single mother, I MEAN IT. I don’t get girls nights, and my daughter, currently, doesn’t get the ‘dad time’ we all wish she did.
With everything going on, I don’t have time to seek approval for my decisions, and I certainly don’t need to be judged for them. More passively, I don’t need to see and somehow ‘compare’ myself to other moms and then shame myself, even inadvertently. Of course, there are always going to be separate life-events that just add to the stress that I’ve already been handling. A new job, an overseas move… Murphy’s law has always applied to me. I think I’ve done fairly well to keep moving forward despite an inordinate amount of setbacks. No one has the ability to comfort me, or provide assistance. So, there’s really no utility in ‘venting’ because ultimately, it’s still just me. Compassion only feels superficial to me and I always get a sense of further distance when people offer words of encouragement… because it doesn’t seem genuine.

2. I (and others) rely too heavily on meaningless facebook communications to have real, meaningful, considerate time with friends. My birthday was a little over a month ago. I got a lot of the routine “Happy Birthday” posts because (to at least some extent) facebook’s guilt reminder that “YOU HAVE A FRIEND CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY!!” But, I felt a little down that as isolated as I’d been feeling, my birthday would have maybe sparked one, maybe two or three phone calls that day from friends or family. I actually have a HUGE family. Well over 60 first cousins, and all of my friends are in different states. All I have locally, are an ex-boyfriend (relationship is on a pseudo-friend level) and some work “friends”.

By 9pm, I had received one phone call. ONE. For everyone else, I warranted only a “HBD” post on my wall. My poor friend from Idaho called me and I fell apart on the phone, “it means SO MUCH that you called me!” Nope, my own parents hadn’t called. Or texted. Nada. Oh, eventually they called, it was 10:30pm and they did a conference call with me to say happy birthday. Not that I’m not grateful, but it felt obligatory/forced.

3. I’ve caught myself getting unreasonably agitated at the ignorance of facebook rants/comments. Specifically about social/political issues. Spreading lies and misinformation will ALWAYS happen, it has happened throughout the history of the world, pre-internet, pre-technology, and it will continue into perpetuity. The concerning part is people’s unwillingness to do their own research, and instead, just jump on the emotionally-charged bandwagon that seems to be the most popular of their own personal social circle. It’s disgusting and frustrating and I just don’t want to see it anymore.

4. Facebook makes you live with your bad decisions for the rest of your (and everyone else’s) lives. I’ve made some stupid/emotional facebook posts that I’m not proud of. It’s probably that way for most people, and some are less apologetic about it than others, and some are more guarded/careful in posting things. I don’t want to open up further possibilities for this. With all of the stress in my life, ranting about it on Facebook really won’t fix it, it won’t make me (really) feel better; it just gives me a false sense of comeraderie– or, at least I think that’s the idea. And then it’s there. Forever. My daughter will be able to read all of my drunk facebook posts to her grandchildren. How lovely. In contrast, I have very few images/photographs of my grandmother– even less of my great-grandmother, but that just means that I cherish the few that I have very much– not only because there are so few photographs, but that no one else has the ones that I have. I also have an astounding amount of reverence for these people. Hearing their stories and experiences have shaped these people into examples to look up to. Did they never make bad decisions? Of course not. They’re human, and most certainly probably did things they aren’t completely proud of, but I have an unscathed perspective, which allows me to preserve their memory, in ways that may be difficult for future generations to do in my memory.

5. Forget over sharing… over POSTING is also a problem. I know that I went to Washington DC back in the spring of 2009. I know that I did it. I remember taking all of those pictures. Somehow, they got deleted before I could upload them. Damn.

MY MEMORY OF DC IS OF TAKING PICTURES.

It is *NOT* about how I felt being there, or the people I met, or the experience. I remember worrying (because I was alone) who I could ask to snap a photo of me in front of the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument. I carried my camera in my hand the ENTIRE time. My *memory* is what I can recall of what I saw through the lens, which, essentially is exactly what someone could have experienced having just seen the photos. The photos that mysteriously were somehow lost/deleted before I could upload them. This is a problem. Go to any monument and look around. NO ONE is viewing the event. They’re viewing their cameras, which are viewing the event, and, just for the record, a photograph (even a good one) will never replace the experience of actually BEING somewhere. I took another trip to DC a few months ago, and watched the changing of the guards at Arlington Cemetery. So many people filmed the ceremony. Very few, mostly the wheelchair-bound veterans, were really taking in the experience. I didn’t take any photographs or video and kept my phone in my purse and turned off, and I couldn’t help (maybe it’s the veteran in me) but feel a little bit disappointed in folks who were treating the whole thing like they were watching their kids in the school play. It somehow devalued the reverence of the moment.

Will I re-open my facebook account? Perhaps. Considering that I will soon embark on a move to the other side of the world, keeping in some form of contact with my parents, and friends, as well as helping to foster some semblance of normalcy helping my daughter to keep in contact with HER friends and family, means that I’ll probably, at some point, go back to using it. But hopefully, I’ll keep this period sans-facebook as a cleansing, sobering reminder of how much better it is to be present in my world, despite the goings on of the facebook world.

Emotionally Unavailable

I’ve always scoffed at the term.  What the hell does that mean?  “Emotionally Unavailable.”  It always seemed like a cop-out.  It’s like an excuse you make for a man who’s actually just a dick.  Until now.  Until it actually just happened to me, after I was four years deep and in love with Mr. Emotionally Unavailable.  It’s confusing.  It’s depressing.  It absolutely sucks.

I’ve been in love with him for over four years.  My daughter loved him.  We lived together, I met his friends, his family, and we made plans together.

Did we fight?  Of course.  Not often, but it was usually met with him giving me the silent treatment.  He didn’t want to talk, and when I finally nailed him down to resolve the issue, he was almost completely silent, while I inevitably apologized for things that were ultimately a miscommunication and a fault deserving shared responsibility.  I really didn’t care that I was always the one to concede.  I hated fighting with him.  All I ever wanted was to be close to him, and knowing that we were upset with one another was torture. 

We continued our relationship knowing that one day, he’d have the opportunity to go back to New Jersey, as he’d said he’d wanted to do, and be back closer to his son.  I admired his determination, but figured we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.  I wasn’t looking forward to that day, but I also wanted to make the most of the time we had, when we had it, and it was by all accounts nearly perfect. 

Until one day when he was laid off from work.  When he told me, I knew what it meant but I chose to look past it.  I knew that I couldn’t pick up and move with him.  I didn’t know anyone on the east coast, and I didn’t have a job there.  We planned his move and I planned on driving out with him and flying back home once my vacation days ran out.  It was a great drive.  We loved every minute. 

He took me to NYC for the first time and I cried when I first saw the skyline.  I never thought I’d see the city, let alone with someone I loved so much.  It was like a movie. 

As luck would have it, less than one month after his move east, I was offered a job in New York. 

“Do you want me there?  I need to hear it from you before I say yes to this.  I need to know that I’m doing this with your support, and not out of some misguided desire for this relationship that maybe you don’t have.”

“Yes.  I want you here.” 

He said yes, but it wasn’t without some reluctance.  He was worried about how I’d feel in not having anyone here (except him) for support.  I felt that as long as I had him, I’d be perfectly fine, if not thrive.  I was ready for a change of scenery.  So I moved.  I moved into a small studio apartment about an hour from where he was living at his mom’s house while he job hunted.  I was so excited for the future.  I’d imagine us taking road trips together, finding a home together, catching fireflies (something thought of as almost a novelty in my west-coast mind).  I guess I took his ‘yes’ to my moving east as a sort of commitment from him.  Despite that, I was a little neurotic about the future.  I needed to be reminded that he was still happy, that he was still excited at the prospect of living together again, that he didn’t have any regrets in wanting me to move to be with him.

He, meanwhile, came home at exactly the right time.  His mother’s long-time boyfriend, a man that was like a father to my boyfriend, became very ill not long after I arrived.  As a result, my boyfriend had to spend time helping his mother more around the house, assisting with visits to and from the hospital, and consoling her when it all just became too much.  He was also starting a new job, trying to get resettled and re-establish his relationship with his young son.  I knew he’d be stressed out, and I didn’t want to be an additional source of that stress.  I wanted to help him, but he very often didn’t reach out to me or talk to me about how he was feeling or how I could help.

So when I reached out for my monthly stress-fest of needing some reassurance, he’d get frustrated and tell me that he can’t deal with my pressuring him.  I think he was overthinking what I was needing form him, but I was struggling in trying to express that to him.  I really could have been fine with a hug, and an “I love you, we’ll be ok.”

…but that didn’t happen.

After about seven months living in New York, to be with him, and start our lives over again here, he broke up with me.  No conversation, no fight.  Just “I can’t.  I’m done.”

It’s been four months now since he walked out of my door.  Since then, he’s expressed some desire to want to ‘be my friend’ and when I’ve seen him, he still kisses me (on the cheek), and hugs me.  It makes me uncomfortable and confuses me.

As my ‘friend’, and the only person I know in this area, I’d expect that he’d be open to helping me through all of this grief.  But instead, he ignores me. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps by little fault of his own, this 43-year old man just can’t handle too much at once.  He was feeling overwhelmed and I was the only thing he could release from his life.  Even though I wasn’t the biggest source of stress, I was the only expendable one. 

In these four months post-breakup, I’ve logged a lot of tears.  It mostly happens at night.  I’ve done well to avoid drinking but very rarely, and have taken as many opportunities as possible to get out and keep busy/distracted.

And last night, I finally deleted his phone number.

I’m trying to remind myself, that it wasn’t my fault, and that it’s not necessarily his, either.  Both of our insecurities got the best of us. 

I’ve asked myself what I would do if he came back.  If I were being honest, I’d say that I would have to be held back from throwing my arms around him in an emphatic “YES!!”.  But I’m also not going to allow myself to wait… even though it breaks my heart to move ahead without him. 

He could never share with me what was going on, and it led me to have to guess, and as he even said, I was “usually wrong.”  But how would I have ever known if he never told me?

Moving ahead now means moving back home.  Far away.  Where I have the support I need, I have my friends, and I’m not eternally surrounded by what could have been.

 

A Lot of “Posts About Nothing” These Days…

Seems like there’s been a trend lately. You do something that is so every-day mundane but YOU feel pressure about, and then feel liberated/vindicated somehow and call yourself a trailblazer.

Guess what? I have fat in places and I wear a bikini. I must now write about how wonderful I am for doing this and how misunderstood I feel. I’m a mother and it bothers people when I breastfeed in public. I must now write about how unnecessarily often I must do this in public and then record every person who I think may be made uncomfortable. I’m a woman and I stood up to my male boss about something and didn’t get fired. I must share this wonderful news with all people, so that my experience may be of some solace and motivation for future generations of female adolescents.

Gahhhhh!!!

Are you kidding me? Am I on a Seinfeld episode (for those that need the reference spelled out, Seinfeld was a self-proclaimed “show about nothing”)? Are we just writing to fill the void within ourselves? Trying to find something that makes us all shine (in our own eyes) just a little more? I feel like everyone is trying to make the most mundane, humdrum facets of life into something earth-shattering. In the end, all you’re doing is perpetuating that these ARE real issues. Don’t you remember how you were taught to deal with bullies? You take away their power. Kids used to make fun of me ALL the time for my small stature… except, that I didn’t care that I was short, so it wasn’t a weapon they could use against me.

People like to give advice and act like they’ve found the high road above all others. I’m special because syndrome…

I’m special because I wear a two-peice bikini when other people don’t want me to/expect me to.
No darling, you’re reacting to other people’s percieved impressions/reactions of you. You are still seeking approval (of your article and your pointed response to society), just in a different category of your life. You’d be far more of a trailblazer, if you just did ‘you’ and didn’t make a fuss about it. That’s how you become a role-model. It’s crazy, right?

Guess what? We’re all part of the beast of society. If we make it an issue, so will everyone else. Do these types of articles really help people? How about we teach the world that 1) you’re an adult. Congratulations. You’re at a juncture in your life where you get to make your own choices, regardless of other people’s opinions. The only person who has to live with those choices is yourself (and perhaps your offspring/partner). Someone is uncomfortable while you breastfeed your child? Ok. What’s more important? That person’s level of comfort or your child’s need to feed? Chances are, even if that person is uncomfortable, (and yes, they’re allowed to be) they won’t stop you. Just like you won’t walk over and sit even closer to them just to piss them off. Why? Because you’re not a jerk. You don’t like fat people in bikinis? Ok, don’t be fat and wear a bikini. Do you feel like people are judging you and you can’t make your own choices? Maybe you’re just not a grown-up yet. Let’s keep you in the oven a bit longer… you’ll get over it. Usually by your 30’s, sometimes a little later (but hey, sometimes it happens earlier… you may get lucky).

We’re human; we’re allowed to have sensitivities that are at times irrational. We’re also intellectually advanced beyond other creatures in the animal kingdom and adult enough to know that we should allow people to have their freedoms free of our persecution. Just as it’s not anyone else’s job to make me feel comfortable, it’s not MY job to try to dance around anyone’s opinions.

So, as a mother to a young impressionable little girl, I’m going to spend the rest of whatever days I have left in this world to be unapologetic and not seek approval. If I want to do something, be somewhere, say something, or wear something, I will. But, it’s going to be because I want, and not because I’m trying to ‘stick it’ to society’s percieved standards. Wow… that was hard.

Can I Be Single… Again?

I’ve recently become single. So, in thinking about my future, I came up with a list of things I WON’T do as a recent dumpee.

1. I won’t email the fling from several years ago. Yet. If it’s going to work out with him in the future, turning him into a rebound is probably not the best first move.

2. I won’t badmouth my ex. Forget for a moment that he broke up with me and that I still very much love him, I don’t think the breakup was his fault… it’s almost never the fault of just one person. We have a pool of shared friends and he says that he intends on maintaining a relationship with my daughter (as she’s told me, he’s like another father to her), there’s just too much drama in any alternative… he really is a good man. He’s flawed, and I’m flawed. We couldn’t do it.

3. I won’t beg for him to come back to me. There’s a side of me that thinks if I just say the right things, he’ll realize he was wrong and it was all just a big misunderstanding and come back. The reality is that even if he did, I’d never be satisfied that he wanted to be there… and then there’s the whole self-respect issue. I’d like to keep a little bit of it.

4. I won’t allow myself to be alone too often. I’m a native Californian living in NYC (yeah, I moved for him… but judge carefully friends, him and I had been living together in California for a year prior to the move, and had been serious in our relationship for several years prior to that). I need to take advantage of all of the opportunities I have while I’m here. There’s no shortage of things to see and do, and if I end up leaving to go back to the West Coast, I won’t regret making the most out of the time I had here. NY vehicle registration is good for two years. Maybe I’ll stay for two years… but I really miss my So. Cal beach… and ohhh… some bangin Mexican food!

5. I won’t tell everyone right away about the breakup. This is for my sanity more than anything else. I don’t know how I’d handle every one of my friends calling me at once and having to relive the whole story. Right now, only a small handful of my closest friends know. Our mutual friends would only know if he told them, and I don’t see him doing that. It also leaves the door open for my ex and I to figure out how our post-breakup ‘friendship’ is going to work out. IF it works out.

6. I won’t worry about finding the right man. I’m 31. I’m more prepared to meet the right man than I ever have been before because now I know myself better, I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and I’m in general more ME than I ever knew how to be before, and from this, as in all bad things, I’ll grow even more. Anyways, finding a mate is not my priority. My one and only priority at this moment is to find a permanent, stable job that pays me enough to afford even a modest home/condo big enough for myself and my daughter. I don’t even care where. That’s it.

7. I won’t buy a pet. I’ve actually been pining for a little puppy to keep me company for a few months now, forget the relationship or being dumped, that’s not new for me, but in reality, for now, plants will have to keep me company. To be honest, I think they do better because there’s no mess, and I won’t have to get up early to take a plant to do it’s thing while I freeze my ass off. A pet will come later… much, much later.

8. I won’t punish myself by listening to sappy love songs or watching lame romcoms. I’ll focus on comedy, or my favorite: Quentin Tarantino movies. Or any gangster movie ever.

Ok, time to fill up the calendar!

Everyone’s Wrong: Live to EAT!

There’s certainly no shortage of dieting advice these days.  The no-carb diet, the diet cleanses… it’s obscene the type of marketing that is done and time committed to all of this junk. 

Because most of it really is junk.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important for me to mention that I have ZERO professional experience, training or qualifications that place me in position of real authority here.  I also have nothing to gain if people ignore my advice.  I really don’t care either way, but I got a wild hair and decided to write, and this is it.  Enjoy! 

Everyone always says that you eat to live.  Don’t format your life around food– but isn’t that exactly what dieting is?  It’s reformatting your life(style) to EAT better, which then leads to better moods, and a more active lifestyle.  Having a healthy diet, aides in almost every aspect of your well-being.  Actually… maybe I’m being conservative: having a healthy diet aides in EVERY aspect of your wellbeing.  All of it.  Mood, appearance, energy… everything.  I’m fairly confident that no ‘professional’ would disagree with me so far.

I think a big problem in our culture is that most people don’t actually know what real food tastes like.  Our tastebuds are so oversaturated with salt and copious amounts of sugar, that we can’t taste and appreciate the subtleties of food as it is naturally.  It’s like trying to see the stars on a dark night immediately after walking out of a too-brightly lit room.  You can’t.  But once your eyes adjust, suddenly, you’re looking at a whole new night sky.  And it’s beautiful.

So, I suggest doing something similar with your taste buds.  Stop drinking soda.  Stop adding ANY extra sugar too foods (coffee, tea, cereal, etc).  Most foods already have natural sweeteners, and if you’re really hating the taste of your oatmeal, try some fruit for sweetness instead of sugar.  Just try it for a month… at the end, reward yourself to a trip to a good (I’m not talking a CHAIN) restaurant.  Get a steak, or a great cut of lamb, or your favorite fish.  Ask the waiter (–again, don’t do this at a chain, the teenage waiter will look at you like a deer in headlights) for a drink (wine/beer) pairing.  AVOID adding anything to the dish until you’ve tasted it the way the chef prepared it.

Now, you can taste the garlic, the fresh herbs, the way the peppers taste when they’re roasted BEFORE being added to the sauce…

This type of revelation is what turned me from a “I hate to cook” mentality, to a “ooohh, I wonder what would happen if I…” in the kitchen.  Even better, when you do splurge on a great restuarant, ask for specific reccomendations from the chef.  They love that, and may cook off the menu, just for you.

If you like something that you normally buy pre-packaged, try… just TRY one time to make it yourself.  Get crazy, and add different things.  Experiment.  Make GOOD food, REAL food a priority in your life.  It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding.  You have to plan, you have to go to the grocery store sometimes two, or three times in a week.  You might spend more initially, until you get used to HAVING to cook regularly (if you don’t, real food expires), but I’ve actually been SAVING money because I don’t eat the crap anymore – any crap – I don’t go out, I cook at home, prepare lunches for work at home. 

Food IS a priority in my life, in that I take the time to create, seek out, and treat myself only to the good, real kind.

When I Grow Up?

Oh how my priorities and interests have evolved. Evolved might not be the best word because it implies, at least to me, that there is improvement with each iteration, and I’m not sure it… or I, have necessarily ‘improved.’

When I was 12, I knew what I wanted to be. I had passion and drive. I’d endure harsh conditions to satiate my appetite for my passion. I woke up thinking about it, went to bed writing about it, saved newspaper clippings related to it, and I could name and understand concepts that most 12-year olds couldn’t even spell. I wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to live my life around the science: read astronomy books, potentially teach astronomy to students, and spend my free time staring up in utter awe and absolute humility of the vast beauty of the night sky. But then, I hit a wall. It wasn’t a big wall; it wouldn’t have been all that challenging to overcome. I had aspirations of going to CalTech to study physics, to then follow up in some other grand school to learn about my specialty. Except when I didn’t know the very first thing about applying to college. I felt overwhelmed and incapable of making that leap. So instead of moving forward, I made a hard right… you know, followed the path of LESS resistance.

I joined the military. The Air Force to be precise. I mean, Astronomy… AIR force… it’s sort of related… right? RIGHT? I know, it’s not. I don’t regret joining the military at all. I have very fond memories of my time in the Air Force. Hell, I got to drive a tank. A TANK! IN THE AIR FORCE! That’s just nuts!

When people asked me why I joined, I never told them I joined because it was a new, potentially ‘creative’ route into the world of astrophysics (of course), I said that I joined for the education benefits (true) and the travel opportunities (true, but unfulfilled). But had I been completely honest, it was the easiest route to escape the current trajectory of my life thus far. It was a reset button that I was desperate to switch. Suddenly, my nerdy, awkward, walflowery past didn’t exist anymore, and I could create my image to be whatever I wanted it to be. I had a good job, and instead of being shy, I could grow confident (and I did- because the Air Force forced me to). It wasn’t a good fit for me long term; I got out after only four years.

By now, I was a parent. I had a decent contracting job that paid better than my enlisted pay, and enough prospects (yeah, in 2006) to keep my confidence up. Again, I was faced with, “where do you want to go? what do you want to do?” And again, I didn’t really have an answer. But thanks to the GI Bill, I had money for college, and figuring I should probably keep moving forward, I signed up for classes. Initially, I took classes in the first program that my counselor offerred: Psychology. After a few core credits, I was miserable. This was not what I wanted to do. I was in the top 10% of my High School graduating class in science and math scores. Solid, undeniable logic is what I understand. I can’t (nor do I have the patience to) study psychology. It’s simply not in me.

Redirect. I decided on another course, but silly me, this one was still mildy relating the world of psychology, although it was altruistic, so I wanted to like it… I wanted so badly to care… but ultimately, I couldn’t do it. So… redirect again. Management. Forget for a moment the psychology involved in leading a team of subordinates, I could handle Management a little easier, and it would jive with just about any future profession I could ever see myself embarking on: Win!

Maybe.

At 31, I feel like I should have figured this out by now.

Except that I don’t. I’m a veteran, a divorcee, and a single mom. There’s a lot of things there that just don’t seem to work out for me. Not that I would change anything, but it’s sort of indicitive of my situation as a whole. Joined the military– ended it. Got married– left him. If nothing else, at least these were things that I CHOSE to end, and didn’t end out of my own personal failure of seeing them through. So, I’m faced again with nothing holding me back. Where do I want to go? I STILL. DON’T. KNOW.

Now, things have changed. The things that I want, with zero uncertainty are: a home, and my daughter. Nothing else matters. My career, my so-called success? It’s all for naught if I have to continue to miss out on time with my baby girl. But to have a home, to have my daughter, I need to find something that will provide me with the money to sustain that life. Something that allows me flexibility to be a single mom that can attend school functions, pick her up when she’s sick, have time to help her do her homework, take her to after-school activities, make her dinner every night… The job I have will never be my passion. I have a passion and it’s just not in my work– it’s my girl. It’s in the world outside of work. I’ve tried to have passion for my work, and no one who knows me would call me less than 100% committed, but there’s little intrinsic reward in that. I do good for the purpose of doing good, but in the end, the only people who suffer are my family; in my case, my daughter.

Over the course of the past 12 years, I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to my patriotism- my country. Still, I have to politely decline colleague’s offers of drinks after work and outings with friends, because I am not financially comfortable enough for such luxuries; as a contractor I make far less than my colleagues, who in some cases, I do the same job, and I’ve done it longer. For what? So I can go home quietly to my studio apartment and miss my daughter and wonder when I’ll finally have enough money to afford a place big enough for both of us. If I sound bitter, maybe I am. I’ve given up a lot and all I’ve really wanted was some stability and consistent vestment.

So what do I want? I want to write… no, I DO write. I write regardless of whether or not I’d get paid to do it. I write because in many ways I have to. But I don’t write for anyone. Ultimately, I only write for me. It’s the only thing that gives me therapy- a much needed release of the craziness in my world. It’s hard and rewarding at the same time (as most ‘hard’ things are), but it’s also flexible. Since I do it anyways, I’m wondering now if it may be the answer to what I am in need of in my 32nd year. The next ‘reset’ button. I don’t know much about writing in the professional sense; but I acknowledge that it may not pay well; and certainly not in the beginning. It really doesn’t matter. I just don’t care about being rich. I know I can edit, and research, and fact-check, and I know that people will pay me to do that. I know that I can handle pressure well, and stick up for myself, and I know that I tend to do best with ‘difficult’ personalities. I’m used to egos and poor writing syles. I just don’t know though, because there’s a part of me that feels a little hypocritical about my writing and editing qualifications. I’m not a reader, but shouldn’t I be? I never have been (although I try).

And when people presume that I must be a TV addict since I’m not a reader, I have to laugh. I couldn’t be less of a fan. I have enough drama and absurdity in my life that it brings me no joy to watch the fabricated renderings on a television screen.

Which gives me ample time (and material) to write.

“Nice” Guys

Let’s all just agree that this phrase finally needs to be retired.

Whether it’s coming from a recently rejected, self-proclaimed “nice guy,” or women who just claim to want a “nice” guy, I’ve officially become tired of hearing it. Here’s why:

Men, every genuinely “nice” guy that I’ve ever met has one trait that seems to come across stronger than most– that is, humility, and a lack of self-pity. By claiming that your being a ‘nice guy’ is the reason you were rejected/dumped, you’re exhibiting a distinct lack of both. Rejection just happens. As a woman, I’ve been rejected by men quite a lot, but how annoying would it be if I kept whining that, well, they all must not like “nice women.” Yes, that MUST be the reason he’s not interested. It couldn’t possibly be due to a lack of physical attraction or incompatibility… He just likes the “bad” girls. As a woman in my 30’s who’s dated her fair share of men, I can say with zero hesitation of the men that I’ve ever heard utter the words “nice guy” to describe himself, that ALL were unequivocally NOT “nice” by any stretch of the imagination. So maybe I’m jaded… but in my experience, if it quacks like a duck, it probably just wants to be called a duck. I’m going to stop myself before I start getting too personal with my experiences on this, but I’d be interested to hear other women’s perspectives… before you do however, read on.

Ladies. Do you really want a ‘nice’ guy? REALLY? No, you don’t. You’re either a realist and you understand he’ll be flawed, but there are certain characteristics that he MUST have- perhaps it’s honesty, maybe a mama’s boy is a deal-breaker, or you have specific career requirements he must have attained. Don’t act like you don’t have some super subjective ‘requirements’ also. I know you do. He can’t have freckles… he has to be at least six feet tall… his name can’t be the same as that crazy cousin of yours (because the name caused it, duh)… Now of all of those things, you also want nice. Um. No you don’t. But relax. I’m not going where you think I am. I don’t take the side that women want the ‘bad’ boys either (because that would bring my hatred of the word nice into such an inverse that I’d be forced to circle back and like it again. “Say WHAAAAT?”

I know your tricks.

Women don’t want a nice guy. We want an awesome one. We want to be blown away by his integrity, his selflessness, and ok, maybe his looks. Assholes don’t get dates unless its from a woman who doesn’t know the difference. So stop trying to be tough. Stop trying to look like a fighter– unless you ARE a fighter, and if that’s your hobby, cool, lets hear about where you train, who you’ve met, etc. Stop posting pictures of yourself on dating sites shirtless, with an angry look on your face like you’re going to hurt someone. When I *was* dating, those were the first guys I’d avoid.

And you’re the same guy who’ll walk away saying, “nice guys finish last.” To which I’ll quietly high-five myself and thank God that I dodged THAT bullet.