I’m going to stray a little bit today from my normal writings because, well, yesterday was just too much fun to not write about it!
Last night my husband and I were lucky enough to attend the American Wrestler: The Wizard premiere in L.A.! Yes, a movie premiere; red carpet, celebrities, cameras flashing, the whole nine yards! American Wrestler: The Wizard is set in a small town in 1980. It’s a story about struggle and perseverance, and being able to put aside differences to find common ground. It will be in select theaters May 3rd, and you can check for local listings at Fathom Events. #AmericanWrestlerMovie
One of the actors and producers, Ali Afshar, is a long time friend of ours (we’re talking 25+ years here) and most of the movie is shot locally in Petaluma and Tomales, California. Ali has invited us to several of his L.A. premieres, but either our kids were busy, or my other half was travelling for work, so we hadn’t been able to attend. Until now.
A few weeks ago, my husband decided we were going. “We never get out and do stuff like this. Let’s just go” he announced. I was all in (I’m always all in for date night with my guy), so I booked a flight to LA and a hotel just a block from the theater.
Then it dawned on me that I had no idea what you might wear to something like this…Uh oh! I scoured Pinterest for ideas. The only thing I knew for certain was that I would need something a bit more sleek than my traditional jeans, a t-shirt, and converse. For those who don’t know me personally, I’m a pretty simple gal and I am NOT a shopper! Not even the teeniest tiniest little bit. It takes every ounce of my being to force myself through the store doors. So I talked my sister (who always looks really put together) into a “quick” shopping trip. She was a really good sport while I tried on EVERY. SINGLE. THING. in Nordstrom and Macys. Far, FAR too many hours later, I thought I had an outfit mostly figured out. Why do the department stores never have exactly what I need, when I need it? I know I can’t be the only one that has this problem? Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with my tendency to ALWAYS shop at the last-minute?
When we arrived at the theater Wednesday night, the event was in full swing. Actors and guests strolling the red carpet while posing for photos, camera flashes in every direction. The people watching was a blast! Before the movie started, Ali (who is truly humble and genuine) stepped up on stage and told us a little about the filming of the movie and then thanked everyone who was involved in the process (my husband included) personally. Everyone was invited to the after-party to celebrate. So we dropped by for a bit, to congratulate Ali, and then we made the short walk back to our hotel.
I really loved to see Ali in his element. He’s worked so hard to get where he is today, and we have watched as this part of his life has evolved over the years. Finally being immersed in it, up close and personal, was exciting.
American Wrestler: The Wizard is definitely a must see! If you’re local, it will be in Petaluma May 3 – 6. For everyone else, it will be in select theaters next week. The Fathom Events link is up near the top of this post. Check it out!
Last week, a friend and I were talking about parenting stages. We both have college aged kids now so we’ve “been there and done that”. When she asked if I would go back and do anything differently, I paused. I was pretty sure I had most of it figured out. I’m not saying my husband and I did everything right. On the contrary. We definitely did not get everything right, but we raised two kids who made their share of mistakes, and still survived to adulthood, so I suppose we must have done a few things correctly?
Seriously, our daughters are turning out to be really good people. I know, I’m probably a little biased. Maybe even just a smidge more than a little? Still, they’re pretty awesome in my book. Isn’t that the whole idea though? Parenting with your best foot forward 99% of the time, so you can send intelligent, curious, kind, and socially responsible people out into the world, to make it a better place. Well, that’s the way we approached it anyway.
That said, there are some things that I didn’t fully understand back then.
First things first! Don’t second guess your capabilities. I have repeatedly heard parents wonder out loud if they’re doing it all right? Of course you’re not! None of us are. How could we? Those little wonders don’t come with a manual and all the parenting books in the world won’t completely prepare you, or keep you from making mistakes. There will be “bad” days. Shoot, there might even be a stint of them. If you’re doing your best, YOU ARE ENOUGH! Look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I using all the tools I have to be the best parent I can be?” If your honest answer is yes, you are doing enough.
Speaking of “bad”days. Let’s just get this one off the table now. We have all said or done something (if you haven’t, you will) that makes us cringe. We are human after all. We get overwhelmed and tired. It’s OK. Just don’t unpack and live there. Stop, take a deep breath, or a few of them…apologize, and LET IT GO!
You can’t do it all at home and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Looking back, our girls could have had more chores. Put your little angels to work. They can help fold laundry and unload the dishwasher. They should be picking up their rooms and making beds. Will three of those four chores turn out the same way they would if you did it yourself? Probably not, but it will be close enough, so who cares? A perfectly starched and spotless house is overrated. Martha Stewart doesn’t live here. Nothing against Martha, but I’m certain she has “people” who do all that for her. Perfection is for model homes. It’s getting done and that’s all that matters. As they grow, give them a weekly chore list. You are lessening your work load and teaching them simple lessons in the process.
School isn’t a competition. “Oh, my goodness, my little SallyJane just wouldn’t know what to do if she got a B!” If that works for SallyJane, so be it. My kids were never straight A students and at times I agonized over my girls grades even though with a mix of A’s and B’s, they were doing just fine. We ended up putting undue pressure, on our oldest, in math. Unfortunately, she inherited my math skills. (Sorry TT!) We tried everything and she would work her rear end off for a C. The thing is, there was nothing wrong with a C. We finally accepted she was doing her best and that’s what mattered!
As it turns out, both of our daughters got accepted to the colleges of their choice and she only needed one math class for her major. There really is a reason for everything!
You don’t have to be BFF’s with all the other parents at school. Be friendly to everyone, but it’s OK to pick and choose who you really want to get to know. Let those relationships grow organically. There is only so much energy to go around and none of it should involve forced interactions.
No is a complete sentence. An explanation is not always required. Practice in the mirror. Own it.
Take at least 15 minutes for yourself daily. I didn’t do this and I should have. Make some tea, read, take a nap, sit outside on the porch in the sun, do some gardening. If you don’t want to take 15 minutes, devote an evening to a class. Whatever is good for you, do it!
I will also add (and this is not to be lumped in with your 15 minutes of “you” time) that it’s not OK for your kids to follow you into the bathroom. My mantra was always “I get to pee by myself!”
There will be days when you don’t feel like playing another round of Candy Land, Go-Fish, saving the world, or attending the Barbie dance party. Take a walk to the park and save your sanity instead.
Mom guilt is real. Don’t give in to it – go back and review the bullet point about being enough.
Date night should be a regular thing. Once a week. Once a month. Every other month. It can be as simple as going for a walk, or out for an ice cream. Another friend of mine schedules stay-in pool side date nights. I love that idea! My husband and I didn’t begin regular date nights until our girls were older. We always spent lots of time together as a family, so we have no regrets in that department, but we could have carved out more time for us as a couple when our girls were younger.
I’m sure there are a few other things I would do differently. Maybe I’ll write about those, down the road, in another post. For now, these were the most obvious. Maybe you would do a few things differently too?
#Parenting; would I do most of it the same? Absolutely.
There is a German proverb that says “fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”
I’ve said it before, we all have fears. Here is a list of the ten most common fears. Maybe you identify with a few of them too?
I don’t like public speaking, or spiders, at all! The gigantic potato bugs that I find floating in our pool freak me out too, but they didn’t make the list. (Admittedly, some fears are a bigger deal than others. Lol.) I know we’re not talking nail polish colors, or picking a new sofa here.
All joking aside; #fear often keeps people from reaching their full potential. Has this ever happened to you? In the last few years, fear of the unknown has kept me from taking needed steps forward in my life. It’s interesting to me that I do not consider myself a fearful person by nature. I embrace change and new experiences. I’ll try almost anything once, but there’s a difference.
So why do I hold myself back?
Variables. I can’t control the unknown variables involved with the big changes, and at this point in my life, time is a very valuable commodity to me. My career goals are a good example. Right now, I don’t have any. Why? In part, because uncertainty keeps me from diving into the water. I have a basic vision of what I want to accomplish, but I’m not sure how I want to get from point A to point B, and I don’t like the idea of trying and “failing” now that I am approaching mid-life. It’s a cyclical fear. I know I don’t need to have all the answers right away, but I don’t feel like I have time to waste. I want to dive in and love what I am doing until I can no longer do it, but I won’t know what that is until I dip my toes in the pool. In turn, I am sitting on the edge, wasting the time that is so valuable to me.
At the moment, my needs are pretty simple. I want to do something that is as fulfilling as raising my children was. (Frankly, I think I have earned that opportunity.) I also want to contribute financially to my household and realizing the goals my husband and I have for our future. I have taken the first step forward and returned to school, but I’ve yet to unlock the next door. It would appear that, besides #2 (public speaking) and #9 (spiders), I most directly relate to #7 (failure). If you haven’t read my previous post about my interests (read it here).
So how do I break the cycle? It’s not easy to let go of fear, especially our fear of the unknown. It takes practice. Often we manifest this fear because what is known to us is our safety net. Our brains create scenarios about all that can go wrong with the unknown. Kick off those cement shoes! Will there be setbacks? Maybe. Focusing on what “might” happen is not worth your energy. The truth is there is always another option. It might take some brainstorming to come up with solutions, but very rarely are you without choices.
Change is good and knowledge is power. Ask yourself what you’re really afraid of and then take the time to process the information. When you have a clear picture of your fears, it makes them easier to identify when they begin to infiltrate your thinking. Take a deep breath and LET THEM GO! You are in control of the outcome! Think about the positives. Not every step has to be dramatic, just keep moving forward. Focus on the big picture and the good that will come from making the changes you envision.
Do you need to make a change in your life? It was Sheryl Sandberg who said “So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”
Our high school’s Project Graduation event, as well as the arts, school athletics, and athletic boosters programs, are very near and dear to me. The last few years, I’m disappointed. I repeatedly see a low level of parent involvement and desperate pleas for volunteers. The same 23 names are somehow attached (organizing, set-up, execution, clean-up) to nearly every school and sports event. Am I the only one who has noticed a significant decline in school volunteerism? Nope. I’m not. How do I know this? I’ve had the “where is everyone?” conversation with coaches, teachers, and most of those 23 people, because I’m one of them. What’s more, I no longer have children at the school. Yes, I am staying involved as an alumni parent! Why you ask? Why not? I have a few good reasons. 1) Schools and school parent groups need your help. 2) Giving back, at some level, to the community my girls benefited from is important to me, and I hope other parents (current and alumni) will be encouraged to do the same. Finally, 3) Many current parents do not appear to be willing.
What’s the deal people?
Uh, hello? Is anybody there? (crickets)
What is it about the word #volunteer that makes people cringe? How is it we have become a society chock full of “I don’t have timer’s”? Real talk: Most of us have a few hours to spare. I mean, let’s be honest here, with social media a swipe away, how much time do you spend perusing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr…I could go on. All the while, staring blankly at your “friend’s” photos of themselves, their family, food, hilarious (or not) videos, vacations, their dog, or what happened on the latest episode of Fixer Upper. Or worse, consuming a nauseating amount of fake news, real news, political opinions, celebrity gossip, actual facts, and alternative facts. Nearly all of us are guilty. According to a 2015 survey, on the Digital Trends website, Americans aged 25-54 checked their phones an average of 17 times per day! That is equal to at least once every waking hour. THAT. IS. STAGGERING! There are 1600+ parents/guardians at the high school my daughters attended. Forget time in general. Can you imagine what could be accomplished if everyone simply gave a few hours of their “social media” time? I can! In fact, if you volunteered, and took a photo (or two, or three) while you were helping out, you would have something really inspiring to post and you would promote community involvement! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s considered a win-win?
In some cases, money appears to be another detour around volunteerism. It seems many people would rather write a check now as a substitute for their time. It’s not that parent groups don’t appreciate monetary donations. They most definitely do! Sadly, in this era of shrinking school budgets and disappearing programs, there is a very real and desperate need for donations, both monetary and physical! Contributions of time and money are the lifeblood of public education in California!
Seriously though. Why is it when you dare utter the “V” word, people hightail it for the exits? Geeez! It’s not like I said something offensive. I didn’t even ask for their right arm, or first born. It’s only a few hours and if you just ask, there are ways for everyone to be involved! I know you’re busy. We’re all busy! LIFE IS BUSY! We need to reverse this trend and change the culture.
Let’s pause for a minute. Before anyone is offended by the last few paragraphs, allow me to clarify one thing. I absolutely understand that some people, really and truly, for various reasons, are not able to give. The funny thing is, more often than not, those are the people who some how try to give time and/or money anyway. If you are that person, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!
No, I’m talking to everyone else. Where are you hiding? Your children, your friend’s children, and don’t laugh, but even your “frenemy’s” children. They need you!
There are pitfalls to having the same people repeatedly be the “go-to’s” for every event. Our annual booster crab feed this year is a great example. We ran the event with a bare bones crew. It all went pretty smooth until it was time for the auction check out. The line and the wait were long and there were only two of us to do the payment processing. I appreciate that most of our guests were patient. Maybe it was all the wine? Lol. One guest did skirt the line to come complain directly to me. She wanted to know why on earth, with such a large crowd, we didn’t have more people ready for payments and she didn’t really have the time to wait in line. I took one very deep breath, then apologetically responded, “I must have missed your request to volunteer. If you leave your name, I’ll be certain to add you to our list for next year!” For a moment she looked surprised, but shuffled herself back to the end of the line. When it was finally her turn, the only words she said were “thank you”, when I processed her credit card.
She’s probably a very nice gal and it’s easy to be critical when you’re not involved.
When I began volunteering, my girls were in preschool. There always seemed to be an overabundance of help. Teachers had enough parent names that they were able to shuffle them around. Nobody felt overburdened or left out. For 5th and 6th grade camp there was a lottery to see who would be chosen to chaperone. Then we moved on to middle school and despite a serious economic recession, which forced a lot of stay-at-home parents back to work, a high level of parent participation continued.
I really began to notice the drop off when my oldest began high school. By the time my youngest arrived, the tide had shifted so significantly it was alarming. As soon as help was needed, all but a few parents would excuse themselves. As a volunteer and fundraising coordinator, for several school related events over the years, here is a sampling of the myriad responses I have received…
“I’m far too busy.”
“She’s in high school, they don’t need volunteers in high school.”
“I don’t do things like that.”
“I have no skills to offer.”
“I would really rather not.”
“You don’t really need me, do you?”
“It’s a two hour shift!”
“My kid doesn’t want me there.”
“I’m just going to write a check. Money is better than time anyway.”
“No thanks, I’m good.”
“Somebody else will do it!”
“You’re the stay-at-home mom. I work, so I would rather go ride my bike.”
The last one is my personal, all time, one for the books, favorite.
I’d like to tell you WHERE you can ride your bike…
The answer to all of the above excuses is: Your answer is incorrect. My husband always says; “you’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem” and he’s right. He chooses to be part of the solution and has been a soccer coach, at the school, for almost 10 years. Some will argue that he gets paid. For the record, none of the coaches that I know do it for the money. For kicks, we worked it out one time. After a minimum of 20 hours per week and personal funds spent on equipment the school district does not provide, he makes far less than minimum wage. Peanuts really. He simply does it for the benefit of the kids and his love of sport.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but as your children navigate their teen years, multiple studies have shown that high school is a time when parents need to be the most engaged and involved. I’m not talking helicopter parenting here, just some visibility. Your kids spend 35+ hours a week at school. Showing interest in their education and activities and being visible benefits them in countless ways. Bonus: Your time not only enriches your son or daughter’s life on several levels; you also enhance the lives of fellow students, the educational environment as a whole, and when you give back, the example you set for them is priceless.
It really does take a village. Is a shift at the snack bar, a few hours at Project Graduation, or helping to brainstorm, set-up, or clean-up at a fundraiser really too much to ask? It’s time you can’t get back and in the big scheme of things, it’s time well spent! If you’re already out there making a difference, thank you! If you’re not, please get involved and volunteer!
I have a mostly right thinking (creative) brain with just enough left (analytical) brain mixed in to make things interesting. For example, math and I have never been good friends; but I love science. I would rather read than watch TV and I like to make certain things myself instead of purchasing them ready-made. In school my favorite subjects were English, art, science, history, and geology. When I started college, I was a business major. I didn’t have a set direction, but business seemed the most logical choice. If it were up to me, you would be able to major in creativity and learning.
My husband once said that my brain is full of “useless facts.” He’s right, although we later agreed to dub them “interesting facts” because often they have proven very useful. What I am trying to say is; I am a wealth of miscellaneous information. Does that make sense? I know a lot about a wide variety of subjects, but I’m not sure I’m an expert at anything.
Can you see where this is going yet?
My mostly right thinking brain, with just enough left brain mixed in, is a help and a hindrance. Having both a creative and analytical brain is helpful when you want to recreate something you found on Pinterest; or when a friend asks your opinion on design, shape, or color. It’s helpful when you want to map out trips, plan a garden, or when you need to create a pattern for gingerbread houses from scratch. It’s an asset when you write a letter, sew pillow covers, take up photography as a hobby, paint a mural on a wall, you want to tell a bedtime story to your children, and when visualizing how furniture will look in a room. It’s also great for learning a new software program, planning parties or fundraisers, problem solving, building furniture (yes, I can build furniture), and researching almost anything. Having both a creative and analytical brain isn’t great for…CHOOSING A CAREER DIRECTION.
What do you mean I can’t do everything? Can you really have too many interests? Personally, I think I can and I probably do. We’re studying genetics in my anthropology class right now and I’m beginning to believe creativity and learning might be part of my genetic code. Almost everything is interesting to me at some level. It boils down to this; I love learning. I also love variety and I do not like to be bored. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about a relaxing weekend and doing whatever I darn well please. I just don’t want to sit at a desk for eight hours (or more) pushing papers from one side to the other, or doing the exact same thing over and over and OVER.
This photo is a good representation of my brain. Disclaimer, if you look closely at the photo, you will notice some of those magazines are several years old. The right side of my brain says you never know when you might need that one photo, article, etc. right? It’s alright, I can own it. Remember, this post isn’t about clutter, my inability to toss clutter, or how said clutter clouds your brain. That’s definitely a topic for another day.
Some good friends of ours used to sit down together, at the beginning of each year, and talk about their five-year plan. A few times, I suggested to my husband that we could have the same tradition. I thought it was a great way for us to visualize what our life path looked like without having anything set in stone. My other half is not a big fan of change and wanted no part of it. He couldn’t understand why in the midst of one project, I was already contemplating the next. I tried to explain that for me, it was just about planning and having things to look forward to. I just wanted a jumping off point. His interpretation of my explanation was that I was never satisfied. In hindsight, I needed to create my own plan. If I had, I think becoming an “obsolete” mom could have been less paralyzing. (Sigh) Good old hindsight.
At 40-something, I have no interest in being a business major. Zip. Zero. None. So, when I decided to return to school and I had to choose a major, I waffled (have you ever tried to balance, on your knees, on an exercise ball?) You can’t get a degree in creativity and learning and I can only choose one major. Marketing? Biology? Communications? Computer Science? What if I make the wrong choice? Sure, I could have a minor also, but that still only covers two, of the twenty-eight, interests I might have at any given time. I needed a major with some real flexibility.
My younger daughter is a college freshman and an English major. She was undeclared, but as a college athlete you must choose a major to register for classes, so she and her counselor chose English. At this point, she has no idea where it will take her and that’s just fine. One afternoon we were discussing the career options available, beyond teaching, for someone with an English degree. Searching “careers for English majors”, we were surprised to learn how many choices there actually are – 100’s in fact! Light bulb moment!
Armed with that knowledge, I took that first step forward and decided to pursue a degree in English too. I’m not sure what I will do with it. Part of me wants that answer now, but how do I choose? I admire the people who know right away. Maybe I’ll teach. Maybe I’ll try several paths, who knows! How did you choose your life path?
The great thing about a new major, (plus my 20 year education gap!) is the bits of general education I need to finish will allow me to add to my plethora of #interestingfacts, and for now, I am just enjoying learning.