A Journey Back To Whole

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gogol's Marriage

I am currently helping out a theatre company in Philadelphia called the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium. It's a mouthful I know, but they are a truly talented and dedicated theatre company, worthy of every hard earned dime we can rustle up to aide them on their creative journey.

Less than a month ago we launched a Kick Starter fundraising campaign. We shot a fantastic video, to document their latest production, Marriage (an utterly improbable occurrence in two acts), by Nikolai Gogol.

The IRC breathe new life into absurdist theatre classics. Work by Frisch, Giradoux, Ianesco, and Vian, masterpieces, rarely seen by theatre goers here, or for that matter, anywhere in the world. But the  IRC has a mission:  to render this timeless theatre genre alive, rescue it from obscurity and place it in the public eye.

We are all excited about our February, premiere, Marriage. The play tells a story of the reluctant suitor, coerced, in competition, to win the hand of  well dowried, bride to be, Agafya. Sound familiar?  Though it was written in 1833, it is, eerily similar to  modern matchmaking that happens, on reality TV. Picture an episode of  "Millionaire Matchmaker" on Fox network and you have the idea. 

Characters include a matchmaker, silly suitors, and a team of St. Petersburg cheerleaders, who throw their two rubles into an utterly hilarious  arena.

Have a look at our pitch. If you have a dollar or two to share, throw it in their hat. Every dollar counts. If you are a lover of the arts, show your support. If you are near or in Philadelphia, come out to see Marriage. You will not be disappointed! 

Join me, and help the IRC continue on their absurd journey. Help us  preserve these rare theatrical gems. Give your nod of approval.  Throw two rubles into an  absurdist theatre troupe’s hat, so the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium can continue to bring good nothingness to life. 

Follow the link below to for a wonderful taste of what they do best! I thank you for listening to my pitch and give up some cash, if you can. If you can't, just enjoy this. It will put a smile on your face!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Put Out the Fire

Put Out the FIRE

A week ago I asked my 15 year old daughter what she was going to be for Halloween. She told me not to worry, that her Dad was going to take her out to the Halloween store to buy her a costume. I have been in big box Halloween stores and I know what they have to offer. I am the Mom who makes her kids costumes. Yes, that one, who stays up until 5 am the night before, sewing, to get them finished in time for the school parade. So, when she told me this, I held my breath, and hoped for the best. I called home at 9 to check in and asked her what costume she chose.

"A firefighter." She replied. 

Whew, I thought, that's a relief. In my mind I pictured a yellow jacket, boots, and a red helmet. Imagine my surprise, when I came home last night to find the packaging pictured above, laying on my entry floor, not at all what I pictured and certainly not what I wanted to see. 

I am not comfortable letting my daughter walk out our front door, in what is clearly a costume meant for an adult. I am sure to have a battle on my hands when she gets home from school this afternoon, when I tell her we will have to make some serious modifications or she can't wear it.  

I am not a prude, but what what passes for fashionable astounds me. Toddlers dressed in belly shirts and minis, thirteen year olds wearing six inch stiletto heels, and most currently teenagers dressed like soft porn stars, in role play costumes to go trick or treating. It boggles my brain. I am surely not alone, feeling this way. 

I am not a dyed in the wool conservative dresser, nor a vogue fashionista. I've done my share of fashion experimentation. I dappled in punk, turned to the bright side of prep, and lived in vintage clothing for years. I just never chose the sleaze road. It was available, but certainly not desirable. The reverse is now true. Sleaze is the rule, no longer the exception on mainstream clothing store racks. Our culture has sexualized the fashion industry to the point that girls actually strive to dress this way.  

There are no easy answers, though I do believe we hold the power to reverse this trend. Blogs like mine will not change the world, but do hold the power to connect with others who have similar beliefs. The key to meaningful cultural shifts lyes in connection to people, both friends and strangers alike.There has never been an easier time in our history to connect the dots and rally for a common cause.  

As I gathered my thoughts before I sat down to write this, I checked into my Tumblr blog. Coincidentally there was a video posted by someone that pertained to this very issue;  a trailer for a documentary called "Miss Representation", that aired at the Sundance film festival this past summer. I have not seen it yet, but the trailer was enough to hook me. I will include a link to this film and to an organization to promote cultural change that was formed in direct response to it. 

If you are concerned please comment here. Check out these links. We are not powerless. An opportunity for culteral change is an opportunity none of us can afford to miss. There really is power in numbers. Join me.

Miss Representation Extended Trailer

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Today I post a poem. I haven't shared any of my poetry to date, as it is usually on the more personal side of my life. But my friend's sage advice, that to be a writer one must share her work, rings very loud in my head. Here goes! I would love to hear some feedback.


A November
moon above
My world
you enter

We exchange
our details
We share
common threads
between us

Feels as if I have
known you
my life
fell apart at her seams

I tell you, I cry
you listen
I long to let go
you hear

You speak of your life
I open my heart
Your confusion
I see, I concur
We both know

Time has passed
March Ides upon us

Tis I
now confused
What to call
our coupling
Past ghosts
won't allow me
such whim

If not love
what holds us
I wonder
I ask

You lay a warm hand
on my shoulder
You pull me in

you say
My dear

I sleep soundly now
underneath your arm

I have found

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Writer's Retreat Entry; PLEASE HELP this Writer Win

Today I finished an essay to win a spot at a women's writing workshop. I was turned onto it in April by an author I met in NYC while I attended an Empowerment Seminar. I was unsure whether to sign up, but decided I have nothing to lose. My first draft was 671 words long. The limit was 250, so even if I don't win it has been an excellent lesson in editing, succinct writing, and using verbs effectively. I am pleased with the result.

Here is where you, dear readers come in. I have attached a link at the bottom of this post. Please tap on it and go to Jennifer Louden's website. Every click betters my chances of winning.

Here is the essay. wish me luck. Please leave your comments.

This is also posted on my facebook. If you could click on the link there too, Iwould be doubly grateful!! Thanks!!

Dear Jennifer,

“We’ll take the house...It’s been pre-disastered.”

I will be divorced soon. My life is like this house in “The World According to Garp”--pre-disastered. I am ready for reprieve, reinvention and rediscovery of forgotten dreams.

Four lines have formed on my forehead and will forever bear witness to my past, my story, and to life’s ups and downs. I could explain them, lament each one, or fill them with botox. Instead, I embrace them. They are my badges; they are why I write this plea.

I am a chef by trade, a mother by choice, and a writer from the moment I could hold a pencil. I love food, I adore my children, and writing brings me peace. My vision is to unite these three in a place I call Cookbook. A virtual, multi-cultural table where people worldwide can come to read, write about, and share food--a universal need. Food is life. Food is me. It is what I savor, and what I will serve.

I long for a place at this table of writers.

I see food. I hear laughter. I taste salt of shed tears.
I feel her embrace, I release all my fears.
Taos, she calls me, a soft voice in my ear.
I am whole, she has freed me, with vision so clear.

Whew! Finito! Muy bien, gracias and bon appetit!

Jennifer Louden's Writer's retreat in Taos NM

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thursday Night Throwdown Philadelphia 4/21/11

Elixr Coffee Philadelphia

If you are into coffee, ELIXR is the place to be! Who knew Philly was an up and coming coffee city? The coffee is excellent, the crowd ecclectic and the staff superb.

Once a month they sponser Thursday Night Throwdown, a contest to choose the best barristas, from coffee shops all about town. A friend and I decided to document last Thursday's happening event. Enjoy the video and frequent Elixr, ranks up there with my other favorite, La Calombe Rittenhouse.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Tethered Lives We Lead

We lead  tethered lives, we do. In one way or another, we are all attached to, in love with, or virtually addicted to one form of technology or another. We run into each other on sidewalks, too busy texting. We ignore our children , while we wait for important e-mail. We sit at bistro tables, look up movie titles, we can't seem to remember, meanwhile, a $20 Lyonnaise salad goes limp. Tragic tales, tragic times, on the social interaction front. Have we lost touch with reality?

As we go about our tech-drenched lives houses grow silent, books collect dust and feelings get ignored. Real emotion takes a side car as we cruise down techno-lane. Technology distracts us from the world at large. Have you ever tried to pry a sixteen year old boy away from his x box? Not an effortless task! Have you ever been so caught up in a page on your computer, that you ignored your phone ring, or your dog beg to go outside? I have. What is going on here? Is this really how I want to live? Will this techno-rage spell the end of real social interaction as we know it?

I am acutely aware of a techno- rift that has arisen in my home. I have two teenagers, each armed with a Macbook, courtesy of my daughter's prep school and a generous friend of my son's. For years, we had but one lowly desktop, for me to watch over. It served us well up to a point. Now I am a commanding officer in the tech- rental army, a.k.a. parental computer patrol. I check user history, Facebook content and cyber manners . I set limits, my children often overstep.

I did not allow video games in our home, until Nintendo released Wii fit. At last, I thought, a road to connect with my kids. My hopes were quickly dashed, as they lost interest soon after the end of their Christmas Break. Next came the onset of Guitar Hero. No go, my kids are not gentle souls, this hunk-o plastic junk could not withstand a daily beating. What is a mother to do? How shall I react to this onslaught of techno-fever?

Gone are the days of TV tag, go to my graveyard and neighborhood carnivals to raise money for muscular dystrophy. The world has changed drastically since then. How can I recreate some of that innocence I experienced as a kid for my own children? Is it even possible? I will now turn my laptop off, unplug for a while and give it more serious thought. In the meantime, where did I set that Wii remote, time for my virtual workout.

Oh, my, no! I think I feel a fever coming on.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Following Through on Intent

Insomniac that I have become, I was up late at my computer last night and came across an article on the Huffington post, written by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika. I was on a techno dig of sorts, for my blog fodder, when a title caught my eye, "Well-being in the Dawn of Social Media". What I sought was data and what I came away with, a renewed sense of hope, left me pleasantly surprised.

"sublimi feriom sidera vertice"        

Or for those of you not familiar with Latin, an English translation...

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

We all have intentions. I intend every day, as I lumber, to complete a to do list that has no end.  All the while, I long to take a walk in the woods, with my dirty dog Jack, work on an art-project, long in the making, do homework with my youngest, when she comes home from school, and speak with two teens, who would rather play X Box, breathe, breathe, breathe, cook a fabulous dinner, in which we would each have a hand, do the dishes together,and finish the job, sit down side by side, share a book aloud, smile to myself in quiet admiration, wonder how I did it all in one day, breathe and then soundly slumber, content that our life is as it should be. Which planet do I come from?

It began in a flash as my cell phone alarm awakened me, fresh start, a new day. I arose slowly and pulled on a pair of socks from my floor in silent hope for a quiet morning. It has been difficult to do that for awhile now. Suffice it to say- and most parents of a teenager will agree- morning hours do not make for our proudest moments.

I tapped on my oldest son's door, heard no reply, so I ventured into his lair. I called his name and tapped on his shoulder. I was greeted by a sounds that no mother should hear. He grimaced, rolled over and  his tirade followed, "I do not need you to get me up! I know what time it is! Get out of my room! I don't feel good anyway! Can I stay home from school?"

I broke the cardinal rule: "Morning is not a good time to engage a tired teenager!"  What should have been a quiet exchange escalated  into our predictable, morning battle to get him to the bus on time.

It was on to teen daughter's room from there. It was such a disaster zone, I could hardly open her door. I stumbled my way around her piles and at her bedside I said, "Time to wake up." No answer. " Let's get going sweetie." Silence. "You will miss your bus. I can't drive you today. I have an appointment this morning." At last, I heard a response, "Then I'll just walk! Go away!"

Strike two! Time to make coffee.

 As I walked into the kitchen my dressed, brushed and ready to go youngest daughter, hugged me and said, "Morning Mama! How are you? I slept great last night. How bout you?"

 My saving grace in the form of an eight year old girl.

I love them deeply, all three, but must admit, I sometimes have a favorite. Today I would have to pick my baby girl.

Teenage years can be tumultuous times. Could I have possibly put my own mother through this? I do not remember. I will have to ask when I speak with her next. I hardly recognize my two oldest children as they depart from childhood and move into adult frames of mind, so different from the babies I knew so well. I long for butterfly kisses, skinned knees, and tiny toes. Laying in bed reading Good Night Moon fifteen times in a row, would offer sweet respite from the now and sure later. Time for me to loosen my grip, at least a bit.

Really what is my intent?  I cannot  hold them back from who they will become, what a fine line I must walk. As my teenagers move into adulthood, I must pause, wait for them to make the first move if need be. I reach out and take their silence, at times, as rejection. My own confusion, not their own, causes my heart to ache. Time for me to change too, ask rather than tell,  and  listen rather than speak as circumstances arise. I have already been over this well-trod terrain.  My job here is to guide them, be their leader. I cannot play dictator, seize control of who they are becoming, no matter my discomfort or ocassional heartache. As I slowly ease up on parental reigns, a new door appears before me, with a plack that reads, "Open to change".

Parenting is the oldest profession. As the world evolves, so must it; as my children develop, so must I.

I have always been a fan of self help books. Got a problem? I probably own a book to help solve it. I am not sure that they did their jobs, those books. After all is said and done, the best teacher is experience, and the ocassional hard knock at our doors. My intent is and always has been to be the best parent I can.

This point brings me back to where I started. Mallika created  a  website called "Intent". It is a place on the net, where anyone is welcome to post a daily goal, a.k.a. intention. It was built on a simple premise, with the support of a strong social network, all things are possible. Intent.com seems a great way for a person to strengthen her resolve. Tell me? Who among us couldn't use a bit of help now and again?  Social media to the rescue! Why not? I ask you. Beats a bill from a therapist. A new way to lighten the proverbial baggage is more than welcome in my book.

I registered earlier today. This is what I posted.

I will be firm, but kind, listen when I would rather speak, keep calm and carry on.

On a last note. If indeed the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then surely a road to heaven must be paved with friends, wherever we may find them. Here's to following through on my intent.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thank You Mrs. Schlafly and Mrs. Venker, Thank You Both

Come March, a new tome will hit a bookstore near you. A book tour will surely follow. I want to be the first in line for autographs. In fact I will take my two young daughters along, just to let them see firsthand what a female conservative looks like. They may marvel with me, at how out of step with reality one person can actually be. Make that 2 people, how could I forget?  This book has two authors, Phyllis Schlafly, and Suzanne Venker. It's title really rolls off one's tongue. Try to say this ten times fast, "The Flipside of Feminism; What Conservative Women Know- And Men Can't Say?" Quite catchy don't you think? It certainly caught my eye.

Amanda Hess of the Huffington post interviewed these two women and lived to tell about it. That is she lasted through what must have been a painful interview and a shock to her system. I wonder, if she too might  suffer from what now ails me, "PTIS" (Post Traumatic Interview Syndrome). As I read the dialogue, a fog set in, I fully expected to look out my front door and see a Studebaker roll up my street. Refresh my memory please? It is 2011, correct?  

I have 2 young, impressionable daughters. The moth eaten drivel, which these conservative women spew, frightens me. My daughters, actually, all daughters for that matter, do not need to be pushed back to the days of yore, when women did not have rights, and  their only hope of a college education and career was dependant upon a ride on the coat tails of a father, a brother or great catch of a husband. Women have come too far to lapse into such silent submission.

Feminism is not dead, but rather under fire. We need to unite, as our foremothers did. The antiquated mindset of this so-called "silent majority threatens to erase all that's been accomplished to date. This quiet assault is like subliminal elevator music, that plays constantly- quietly in the back ground of our every day lives. If one listens long enough, you will begin to sing the song. Women's rights are under attack. It is time to wake up and continue to relearn the songs that have already been written and to write some new songs of our own. Thank you Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker for your clarification, of so timely an issue.

We have come a long way my sisters, mothers, friends, and foes. Now more than ever, our daughters need role models. We have our work cut out for us. It is not enough to talk the talk. Time to walk the walk.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Thine Self Be True, Time to Eat

I do not like Winter. Dark mornings and early nights do not sit well with me. So today as I pulled up the shade in my room, and saw the sun, I rejoiced. Despite cold feet and my leaky old windows, I felt a bit warmer inside.  Ah, sunshine! I welcome her touch. Time for me to seize the day.

In a world turned upside down, to face a day presents challenge. I liken myself to a fish, as she struggles to swim upstream; tapped out, at wits end, yet tenacious, determined and ready to keep up the fight. Despite circumstances, ultimately, I will prevail. There's only one ingredient, oft missing.

I am a chef. As odd as it sounds, I often forget to eat, especially when I'm under stress. My stomach growls as I plow through my tasks. My ADD brain thinks, that this too shall pass. When alas, 3:00 rolls around, and  dammit, I've not eaten a bite. Today a new dawn arises. I will nourish myself with food. Wow! Pretty basic! Words are not enough to sustain me. Though I've some serious questions to answer and problems to solve, nutrition and  health are core ingredients, and will certainly help carry me along on this journey.

I am left with this thought, a new mantra perhaps?

"Nourish thy body first, your heart is sure to follow."

You can quote me on that!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!! Oh? I hear the call. Gotta run. Time to eat!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ok,Ok I Know This is Cliche'

Sat down to write a blog about bullying, ended up with a rift on the Night Before Christmas. Oh my Lord, where, oh where can my train of thought be?

Twas a lovely Tuesday morning and around my abode,
Not a shred of dirty laundry, not even a load.
My kids are in school, my chores are complete,
I sit down at my table and put up my feet.
Turn on my computer, at 10 for a change,
My computer awaits me, I have words to arrange,
I scroll through my favorites in hope that I'll find,
An interesting nugget, to trigger my mind.
I stare at the screen, my mind all a flutter,
While stories and news bytes spitter and sputter.
When what to my weary, ADD mind should appear?
But a story I can relate to, and
Can share with you here.

My children are nestled all snug in their beds.
And good night to anyone who might still be awake!

Until Tomorrow!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Walk the Dog

Hot off the web, while we tighten our buttocks, so too our brains grow.  The New York Times reported  findings from a recent University of Pittsburg study on fitness and how it affects brain function as we age. Sounds pretty boring ? I know, but what they discovered might just surprise you. In fact, if  you are a over the age of 49, this bit of information might actually motivate you to exercise 3 times a week.

I do not want to bore you with statistics, they can be read in the Times, so I will just give you a general synopsis.  120 Sedentary men and women, average age 60, were divided into 2 groups. The first walked around a track. The second did less aerobic exercise including yoga and light resistance training. They both worked up to 40 minutes, three times a week.

After one year all parties were in much better physical condition. The surprise came when the brainscan results were examined. The walkers brain volume, in the hippocampus area had actually increased, while the  less aerobic groups' decreased. So what does that mean you ask? The hippocampus is the part of our brain that controls memory function. This small , but enlightening bit of  knowledge demands further study, both in the lab, and out in the real world. Let me explain.

Is it too much to think, if  all Americans were armed with this minor tidbit, that our rate of obesity might actually decrease? If, say, Joe Schmo, average junk food eater, super sized drink drinker, was to get wind of this , might he actually,take a walk, get smarter, and break his unhealthy habits? A larger brain could could be a very motivating factor.

If I walk my dog 2 times a day, I might be wiser by the end of a month and perhaps brilliant by the end of the century. I might even be able to remember to pick up my drycleaning.  Gotta go! My dog awaits.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Google Warfare

When I first began to blog, I was literally clueless. I was sure that I wanted to write, and I desired a clean, streamlined website that was free of ads. Other than that, it was up in the air. I hunted and pecked my way through the set up. The learning curve was a long one. Though writing itself gives me great pleasure and stimulates my, often, weary brain, writing alone, I found, does not a blog make. My page views continue to increase, though I do not have many  followers. ( That is a hint BTW). Minor glitches aside, the only problem that remains to be solved, lyes in Google's hands. Technical difficulties arose the moment I  signed onto their AdSense campaign. I am sad to report that I drank Google kool aid. It now haunts me.

 I moved onto  gadget placement. My frustration mounted as I attempted to execute the simplest computer maneuver of all, cut and paste. Elementary  if you know what you're doing, tortuous to a computer novice like me. I downloaded "Blogging for Dummies". Suddenly what  befuddled me became clear. Not only did I learn the fine art of cut and paste, but also two basic rules behind the art of a successful blog. Rule # 1; Links on  blog create more traffic. Rule #2; Advertising can generate income. Seemed logical to me, so I linked to the hilt and joined the Google charade. Regret was soon to follow.

I thought I could save time and effort by allowing Google to match ads to my blog, after all, they claim to be  experts. At first glance, ads were quite general in nature. Banners for dog food and pet care appeared. Appropriate I thought, but other, more objectionable promotions began to rear their ugly heads. They were in no way related to recent posts. In fact, I would liken them to country cousins, thrice removed. I went to work, quickly, to take them off my site. Google ad filters to the rescue, or so I thought. What seemed a petty nuisance then, continues to plague me.

This morning I signed onto Diaryofadogbiscuit.blogspot.com. I glanced over my posts and below my last entry an image only ad appeared. It was a portrait of a handsome man in a black leather jacket. He stood aside a motorcycle. Type below this image was tiny. I could not read it. My glasses were no where in sight, so  I clicked. The handsome man began to pontificate. His speech went something like this.

"Hi! I'm John Doe. I live in the suburbs with my beautiful  wife. I am an electrician. My son plays little league. My daughter  takes dance. I take the train to work, so my wife can drive our SUV. On weekends I mow our quarter acre. I ride a Harley and by the way I'm a Mormon."

I watched as ads for  Mormons and Scientologists cycled on my blog. Pardon my drama. I was now officially disturbed. If I were an Evangelist writing about fire and brimstone, I might not mind, but alas, I am a lapsed Catholic. I take issue with the fact no one at  Google, or any other online forum can help me resolve this annoying problem.

Makes me wonder what is really going on here. I've read over each of my blog posts. I make reference to God only once. ( i.e., "Thank God for little girls.") This not so subtle intrusion on my tiny website reeks of what might follow. If Google is able to invade my content, how might this cyber radar play out on a world stage? Given the role that social media has played in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt, and the relative ease and speed by which these 3 oppressive governments were able to appropriate this powerful technology, it is not so far fetched to question whether this subtle intrusion could mutate into an unprecedented global attack on  our right to privacy?

Meanwhile, back at the blog, these ads continue to roll. Have you any suggestions, dear readers?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Nuf Said

I imagine that most of you watched the Super Bowl game yesterday. I went with my kids to a girlfriend's house to see it. Her husband and our kids watched while she and I talked in the kitchen. We are not football connoisseurs at heart. Anyway, about 3/4 of the way through said football game, I received a text from a friend that said, "Want you to watch the Black Eyed Peas on sb. There is a blog piece. Note the song where they want to educate the children." It was too late to catch it live, so I watched it via computer when I got back home.

I am a lover of music. My taste runs the gamut. I love Jazz, Classical, Classic Rock and most Pop, up to about 1994. Folk, Gypsy, Salsa you name it, and being a Minnesota girl at heart, I love Prince. But after listening to the Super Bowl Half time show, I am truly at a loss. What passes for music and entertainment is quite frankly beyond my comprehension. We all love to be entertained, but it was truly painful to listen to this shameless debacle.

What possessed the planners of this show? I can only imagine the conversations that took place at the conference tables to decide who should be the chosen entertainment for the Super Bowl half time festivities. This is the conversation that plays out in my head.

"Michael Jackson is dead." Said talking head number 1.

"He is? How about Neil Young? He's only half dead." Answers talking head 2.

"No way! The young fans want hip and cool." Whines head number 3.

"How about that group with whats her name? Fur something?" Suggests Mr. Old Head.

"The Black Eyed Peas. Perfect. Yo. Boom. Boom." exclaims Mr. Young Head.

"Lay it down, so many ways to love her."

"Oh my gosh, we can get Usher too, and don't forget Slash. He and the Ferg will rock it."

"Sweet child of mine, I think we've figured it out! Fill up my cup! Tonight's gonna be a good night!"

You get my drift? Forgive me if I am wrong! Nuf said!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

great writer momma

I have a guest writer today, my 8 year old daughter Addison Paige.

"My mom is a truly great writer. When I look at her post I say if I had a computer I would be a follower and read it every single day. I wish I was a good writer, I would write all the time, 24 /7, but when I think about it if I had my own computer I would make a blog just like my Mom's. Well it wouldn't be as good, but if I set my mind to it I can! Just think you can do it." Addie

Thank God for little girls! My saving grace right now! Gotta love it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Four Seasons Luxury in a $50 Dress

In my haste to post my reaction to what was happening in Egypt, I left out a crucial detail. Far froman authority, I believe this detail lends me a voice. I did a lot of research about Egyptian history, customs, and people before my trip. I went with an open mind, not knowing what to expect from my first, hands-on experience in the Mideast. I never imagined the impact this trip would have on me. What began as a pleasurable vacation, ended as a life changing journey.

My third night in Egypt. I was invited to attend the opening reception of the Mediterranean Food Summit, which my husband was a part of. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I would be there alone. At the last moment, I decided to go. Why not? I thought. I will  only go to Egypt once in my life, and after all, I will never see any of the attendees again.  After trying on everything I had packed, I donned my $50 "designer discount" Marshall's dress and took the elevator to the seventeenth floor. The guests had begun to gather. I scanned the crowd for a familiar face, and not seeing one, I walked over to the edge of the balcony. The circular pool was surrounded by a transparent glass wall. Beyond it was the Mediterranean Sea, above it  a full moon shined down, and far below it, Alexandria's bustling street scene played out. Party music that came from the speakers could not drown out the sound of car horns, nor the eerie siren sounding its last call to  prayer for the day.

I thought how amazing it was to be standing there. I felt like I was on top of the world. The sound of footsteps broke my reverie and I was joined by a well dressed, older gentleman who spoke with an accent. In a rather deep voice he asked, "Breathtaking, isn't it?"  I sighed and said something about how lucky I felt  and how incredible it was to be in a country that I had only dreamed of visiting. He laughed aloud. We went back and forth for awhile. Soon a woman walked over and he introduced her as his wife, Suzanne. What I came to find out later,was that what appeared to be run of the mill party banter was, in reality, a brush with fame.

Had I known in that moment, I would have been freaked out; I would have been intimidated and not able to relax enough to be myself. I am now thankful  I was blissfully unaware. I had no idea to whom I was speaking. The conversation ended when introductions for the gala began. As the couple walked away from me, the general manager's wife came over and asked me how I felt after talking with the President.

When I look back now, I can remember the signs. I can see the security guards move closer as they formed a tight circle around us. I notice the men on headsets as they reported to one another and I recall a curious crowd of onlookers staring in our direction.  The security detail was protecting President Mubarak and The First Lady of Egypt.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The House That Twitter Built

Having spent three weeks in Egypt, three summers ago in August, I can't help but be struck by what has transpired there this past week. As I watch videos and read newspaper articles about these current events, huge numbers of Egyptians  gather in protest. People flock to the streets in both cities of Cairo and Alexandria. They have joined together in peaceful protest, not only to bring to light the universal hardships of high unemployment and inflation, but also to decry the lack of opportunities for growth and prosperity within Egypt itself.  They live under a supposed democratic system that renders them helpless. Their president, Hosni Mubarek pontificates his adherence to democracy while he yields authoritarian rule. In other words, he has served 30 years as a dictator in a democratic sheep's clothing.

His submission now takes its toll.

This is  has been Mubarak's tact all along, and  largely the entire "Mideast as a Whole Way" of controlling the masses. Mideast governments keep dissidents quiet, jail those who object their dictatorships, as they  shamelessly tout their "democratic ways",a disgusting abuse of power as I see it. I can only observe this  from afar now, but I am encouraged to hear these Egyptian voices, a distant sound in chorus, joined not only  to gain freedom, but also united in consideration of their own fate. Their voices can no longer be silenced. Their tyrannical leader must bow to their pleas and resign.

In the blink of an eye and emboldened by their close neighbors in Tunisia,  Egyptians gather enmasse' to demand a change in regime. Their uprising, alone is not unique, but what does set it apart from any before it,  is the way in which it was organized to begin with. An all new forum exists from which to launch political movements.

We've all heard the names, Facebook, My Space, Twitter and such. They are instantaneous channels of communication, ways to speak our minds and document each moment of our daily lives. We share and the world is apprised. At the tap of a key, we transmit  details of our daily lives with friends and strangers alike. News arrives at our doorsteps within the moment it occurs. Egyptian youth have embraced  this new way to communicate. Regardless of Mubarek's attempts at control, Egyptian voices were heard. His usual means to squelch his minions, met with failure.

 I actually loath a lot of this new technology. My kids drive me nuts every day with it. They glue themselves to their computers. They text their friends while composing a school essay in Word. The printer churns out said essay. Meanwhile 10 of their friends await their, more often than not, rude replies. The world moves forward while they are on hold. What they fail to grasp, is the power they have at their fingertips, the ability to change the world if they so choose.
Twitter and Facebook are largely to thank. Social media allowed these oppressed people
 to communicate their plight and unite in a noble cause.  They alerted one another, inspired like minds to join in a crusade, and gathered together to face the opposition.  By the time their own President was apprised, the cat was out of the bag, and the uprising had begun. Makes me wonder? Could Twitter be reason to celebrate?  Can it serve as one stone in a foundation, on which a country can build a brighter future?

Does a turbulent voice tolerate a deaf ear?  The Egyptians with help of revolutionary technology made their voices loud and clear.  Mubarak has now agreed in part to disband his government body and to replace it with another. An important question hangs in midair, "Replace it with who?" One of  his cronies or better yet his capable and willing (who wouldn't be) son, Gemal? What Mr. Mubarek  needs to realize is that he no longer presides in a world where dictators can meet with easy success. Times have changed drastically since he set out on his own voyage for power. The world as we've known it has been turned on its head. Social networking makes it possible for the once silent minority, to be heard at long last.

In light of  this, I realize my responsibility as a parent. My kids assume their technological freedom is a birthright.  My job as Mom is to tell them it is not. They need to know that what they have at their fingertips is powerful, and to be respected in every way. My kids are sadly mistaken to believe that they are Kings and Queens of their solo universes. It is up to me to make them realize the small space they take up in the world as a whole. If I want them to be World Citizens it is up to me to teach them to be that. After all, we do have strong voices. we must embrace them and sing just as the Egyptians have done.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bows and Arrows

I will just leave a quote here today. You can ponder it awhile until tomorrow morning when I will relate it to to my here and now.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. They are with you though, they belong not to you. You may house their bodies, but not their souls. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might, that His arrows might go swift and far. Let your bending in the archers hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies; so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

A friend sent it to me earlier today. Gibran has always been an inspiration to me. Enjoy! Until tomorrow, which is actually today. I must go to sleep.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thank You for the Views...But PLEASE Make Some Comments

I am thankful to each and everyone of you who has read my blog so far. The views have given me the confidence to continue my chronicle. This all sounds very dramatic, but my life is at the point of no going back. I am at a precipice. I will continue on this journey, regardless of my fear or doubt of what might come. I will muster the strength to continue on my journey back to whole.

You might wonder why I am writing this. I can't begin to tell the day I have had. Many a truth was revealed. I am still processing how it fits into my present situation.  I will write about it after I have had a day to mull it over. You will all be apprised. I promise. For now, I leave you with a plea for comments. Presently, writing this blog is both comfort and release. I welcome your feedback to help guide in this venture.

Write to me! Share. I need it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Movin' too Fast

I broke a promise yesterday. I did not post. No excuses!  Kids were off school. We had 14 inches of snow. When I  finally sat down to write, my brain was a jumbled mess. My head was pounding. I felt a cold coming on.  I tried my damndest  to describe baking biscuits, but face it, reading about it is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  After all this blog is not really  about about my biscuits anyway. It is a  diary of my everyday life. The trials and tribulations of being a newly single mom with 3 kids, a dog, a 100 year old house and a red minivan, who greets each day with the best of intentions and occassionally loses her way.

 The dog barks. Three kids vie for my attention . My untidy house screams out, clean me, clean me and a  keyboard awaits my not so gentle touch. All the while I know I should be working on the Grrchews launch.  I  officially enter "OVERWHELM". Welcome to the chaos that is my world.

Overwhelm is my point of no return. Patience walks out my front door. Life as I know it deteriorates into pure mayhem.  I put a lot of pressure on myself in my ridiculous strive for perfection. I want to do so many things. Super mom, I assume I can do it all. I bark my orders. I expect my kids to do things exactly like I do. I hover over them to make sure they are doing their designated tasks correctly. They complain. I get frustrated, let them off the hook, figure it is less hassle to do it myself, and in so doing, I reinforce their false belief that I am their full time, live in maid. It is a no win situation.

Yesterday I set out  to clean our house. I enlisted the help of my children. I watched them as they worked. They were arguing with one another and literally getting nothing done. The dog started to bark and FRUSTRATED ME went into overwhelm. I ranted and belittled them for their lack of progress. The situation was about to fall apart at the seams when my son said, "Mom, I just want you to leave! You have made it impossible for me to get anything done now." This morning his words still ring in my ears. Whoa Nellie!  I can feel the insight a comin' at last!

 My son was right! If I take away any possibilty for success, I deny them opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. When I hover over my kids and expect them to do things only my way or the highway, they will not learn how to do it themselves.  Regardless of the fact that I consider myself an expert housecleaner, my way  is not the only way. After all, who died and made me Betty Crocker?

How important are a few stray dust bunnies, when there is a biscuit to be baked, a snowman waiting to be born and children to be listened to and truly understood? I need to pay better attention. I need to slow down. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, I sign off.

Slow down you move too fast now
Got to make the morning last now
Kickin down the cobble stones
Lookin for fun
Feelin groovy

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse? Part 2

I wrote my last post from  a purely emotional point of view. It sprung from the fiercely protective part of " Mom me" that would like nothing better than to see my kids sail into adulthood unscathed by adversity, untouched by harm and full of self esteem. But alas this is not possible.

The world is not a perfect place in which to raise our kids and  although I adamantly oppose many of Amy Chua's parenting methods, I concur with her major issue, we in America overparent our kids. We save them when they can learn from their mistakes, hide many of life's truths in order to protect what we perceive to be, their fragile psyches and often allow them to drop pursuits they find the least bit challenging. This does not allow children opportunity to grow. It robs them of  true feelings of mastery and pride in their accomplishments.

 It is not always easy to get children to do what we would like them to, for instance comply to rules,  finish their homework, or practice the violin. But in today's tough, competitive and lets face it, rather cruel world it is imperative that we foster in  them the  lost arts of resilience and perseverance. If we can reach these goals as parents, our children can and will grow into strong and capable adults who are able to handle any stress that will no doubt come their way.

There is no perfect parenting method.  Each way has positive and negative attributes.  We need to pay mindful attention rather than passive. We have to choose when to be firm rather than fair. We might opt to talk or take time out to listen.  At times we need to reevaluate our own personal perceptions so we can clearly see the reality of a  tough situation. It all comes down to finding a balance , consistency in our approach as well as consideration for the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of each child.

Being both a mother for life and a chef by trade, I can boil this debate down to very simple terms. To raise kids with only self esteem and no motivation or determination is to bake bread with water and no yeast or salt. Just as the bread cannot rise minus yeast, our children cannot rise to meet life's inevitable challenges without some very integral ingredients. It is up to us, parents to fill their larders.

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse?

I picked up the January 31st issue of  Time magazine today in my doctor's waiting room. The cover featured a story about a recently released memoir called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Before it was published the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from it online. That post has been read by more than 1 million readers and garnered over 7000 comments. The book hit the stands on January 11th and is now # 5 on the New York times Bestseller List. In It, author, Amy Chua describes raising her 2 daughters within the strict confines of "Chinese Parenting". Some readers praise her for her parenting prowess and others call her a monster of sorts.

Her girls, now teenagers, were not permitted to watch television, have play time with friends nor free time to explore the world in their own way. Instead she scheduled each hour with violin, piano and reading lessons and from what it sounds like, very little else. Amy, herself grew up in a home where any grade less than  A was unacceptable. Regardless of her American upbringing, she was required to speak Chinese in their home at all times. She received a chopstick whack for each English word she might mistakenly utter.  I can only imagine how she must have felt after being shamed by her father when she came in second place at a school assembly.  His words "Never,ever disgrace me like that again!" no doubt must have stung.

I understand having high expectations for our children. Most parents do. But what I cannot stomach  is Chua's glaring  inability to realize that our children are not mini clones of ourselves. Regardless of our shared gene pools, each and every child is born an individual, unique in form from any other. We bring kids into the world not to control the outcome of their lives, but to guide them in a compassionate caring and patient manner, along a path that ends in independence and discovery to who they really are.

Chua states that her children's happiness is her primary goal and that her intense focus on achievement is simply, "the vehicle" to help them find genuine fulfillment in a life's work, just as she has. But has she given them any say in the matter along the way. If they were given the freedom to take part in the process would they make any of the same choices she has made for them.

A large part of growing up involves "finding our inner voice". A voice that guides us when no one else is looking. When Chua's daughters finally break free of their mother's control, my question is whether or not they will be able to hear or even recognize their own inner voices. Where does that leave them?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack Jansen

Telling the Truth

It is Tuesday  morning. After taking time to reflect on my blog dilemma I have decided to continue this endeavour. I will not shy away from the truth. I will tell my story here as honestly  and openly as I can. If there are readers here who cannot understand, so be it. I believe there are just as many, if not more who can and will relate to what I write about. I believe my story, with all its ups and downs, is a timely one. We all face our own share of adversity. It is the actions we take to solve these problems that matters most. 

The world is a rather crazy place. I am merely trying to make sense of my life within it and to forge a path to a better place for my family.  I admit I have self doubts, but I also have a whole lot of faith . Tenacity is my forte. I certainly will not give up now. I found a quote from Steve Jobs awhile back that relates well to my train of thought.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other people's opinions drown out your inner voice and most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become."

I will continue to write for these reasons. This is not a self indulgent activity but one of reaching out to the people around me. Who knows?  It might even create opportunity for  healthy dialogue and humanize what is surely not a unique life situation. I am, after all, not the only one to have ever gone through a divorce or had a child who is having rough times. Now is the time for me to reach out, to seek help and not shy away even if my words might strike some uncomfortable chords. Seize the day. 

So I begin this week renewed in spirit, grateful for my children, thankful for my life and the freedom to grow in a new direction.  As I rebuild I will loosen my grip on situations over which I have no control and tighten my hold in the areas where I can make a difference. Like getting on with my biscuit baking for instance!  In doing so I will discover a balance.

Making Biscuits

Ready to bake...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In The Face of Adversity

It is now 2:00 am on Saturday, I have not posted since Wednesday. It seems I have ruffled a few feathers and caused quite a stir among my family and friends. I set out to be open and honest and in doing so I have upset some people. What to do?

I spoke on the phone with a close friend who read my last two posts. He was comfortable with the depth of the first. but the second one hit a chord, that made him feel uneasy. He does not understand why I feel a need to share such intensely personal issues with the world at large. He told me he had heard from a few other mutual friends who also questioned my motivation.

My estranged husband called me as well. He was livid. He demanded that I take down this blog immediately. He went so far as to call his lawyer this morning, who in turn called my lawyer, who then called me to discuss this blog drama. After a few minutes of explanation, I asked that she please   read it and call me back with her thoughts. Her advice was to do one of three things.

The first is to change nothing, to keep writing just the way I am. I asked what might happen if I choose to do this. Her answer baffled me quite frankly. I could open myself up to litigation from my husband for slander. If he decides to try for custody this blog could be used to portray me as an unfit mother. I feel like I am in the twilight zone.

The second is to write it under a fake name.

The third is to get off the internet completely, in other words stop blogging. 

None of these options seem fair or viable at this moment. I do not want to offend or hurt anyone. My intent in starting up this blog again is twofold. Writing for me is a very therapeutic, cleansing process. It helps me to sort through my feelings and in turn  make sense of them. Secondly I want to write about my struggle to find balance in my life.

I am conflicted by this.  So I opt to take another day or two away  in order to make this tough decision. Do I continue writing and risk losing custody of my children or being sued for slander? Do I shelf it until things settle down and risk losing momentum in both my writing and my soon to be new career?

I will get back to this blog either way, so as not to leave you all hanging. I will end with a thought ever present in my mind that so happens to be one of my core beliefs.

Courage is the strength to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Bon Nuit.