Tuesday, July 31, 2012

That's Nice

If nice guys always finish last, why do we keep being nice? What is so great about being nice? If I said, "How was your Disney vacation?" Would the answer be a ho-hum, "Oh, it was nice." If I asked, "How was your ride in the Lamborghini?" Would the answer be, "It was everything you'd expect...very nice." Even when talking about the weather, nice isn't bad, but even pleasant is more exciting than nice. And again, if it's only gonna get you last place, why bother?

And yet, I've always considered myself to be one of the nice girls. I've diligently instilled the nice principle into my children's psyche. Or at least I've tried. I guess that's because I've never really been competitive. I suppose I didn't mind finishing last as long as I got a chance to smile at everyone while they passed me. So it surprises me still that more than one of my children has grown up with the attitude that is basically akin to "If he didn't want me to punch him, I guess his face shouldn't have been in the way of my hand." Competitive to the Nth degree and not very nice.

There is a great Sondheim song from Into the Woods, sung by the witch who is trying to talk the other characters into giving into the demands of an angry giant in order to save mankind. The lyrics go like this:

 You're so nice.

You're not good,

You're not bad,

You're just nice.

I'm not good,

I'm not nice,

I'm just right.

I'm the witch.

You're the world.

I love this song because it reminds me that nice isn't always good. In fact, it can sometimes be the opposite. After all, God doesn't call us to do "nice", He calls us to do good. Actually, I think we may be called to do more than that. I think we are actually called to do "right". The right thing is not always the good thing or the nice thing. And a person can certainly seem like a witch when the world is so busy trying to be nice, they forget to be right. It kind of makes me want to channel my inner witch.

I think the thing that makes me the proudest is to know that my kids usually do the right thing. Ok, so they have also been to known to weigh the right thing against the funny thing and come out laughing, but most of the time they choose right. While they don't normally actually punch people in the face, they are pretty good about not taking on someone else's blame. Which is a good and right thing, too.

I asked a very wise man once why the nice ones keep on being so if they are always going to be last. His answer--because some of us want to get to heaven. I have to say that I think nice would probably get you there. But so will good and right. The important thing is to head in that direction. And when we get there, I know it will be nice. Very, very nice. Maybe even pleasant.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Real True Love

I really hate to use my happy, funny, positive blog as a vent mechanism, but it can't be helped. After all, there are 3 types of communication all woman excel in--nagging, gossipping, and venting. This is my turn to vent. (Cue music...It's my blog and I can vent if I want to, vent if I want to...)!

It's just that I've heard this one particular comment one too many times to stay quiet on the matter any longer. This comment...this ridiculous, naive, sad comment...must be countered. So I'm countering. I'll be that voice. I'm not sure if I'm worthy of the responsibility, but I'll take it anyway.

The comment, usually harmlessly flung  in passing from the lips of a quite loving mother with a casual "don't you agree" kind of tone when discussing step children, or foster kids, or adoption, or the motherless problem child down the street, goes something like this...

"You could never really love someone else's child the way you love your own flesh and blood."

To which I want to answer something like this...

"Really? You can't? That's very sad. And pathetic. And self-centered. And narcissistic. And small-minded. And egocentric. And ugly. And...well, and tells me a whole lot about you as a fellow human being and mother. Thanks for sharing."

Is that too much? A little harsh? Am I overreacting? I don't think so. Perhaps the well-meaning mom should reword the callous remark to confess that SHE can't understand that kind of unconditional love. Perhaps SHE is incapable of truly loving any being other than her own flesh and blood. Perhaps SHE shouldn't make claims that that kind of love is not possible.

Furthermore, when she makes this claim, she is telling some precious child that he or she is unworthy of unconditional love from anyone other than a biological parent. That's a really cruel untruth to unload on a child who may have lost parents to cancer or war or any other tragedy.

I used to let these kinds of remarks slide. I used to think that perhaps the well-meaning mom simply doesn't understand because she hasn't been blessed with the opportunity to love this way. However, the sad truth is that I've heard this comment more often lately from well-meaning women who have been blessed with the opportunity and still the comment is made.

So let this be the public counter to well-meaning naivete. A person can love any child as her own flesh and blood. It's possible. It's factual. It's real. It happens every single day, all day long.

I remember seeing Marie Osmond being interviewed about motherhood. She's the mother of 8 children, some biologically her own, some her own nonetheless. The interviewer asked, "Which ones were adopted." She answered, "I don't remember." The interviewer laughed and pressed her, "Seriously though, which ones?" Again Marie insisted, "I don't remember." After a couple more tries, the interviewer finally moved on. At that moment, I completely LOVED Marie Osmond. I understood and she understands. And maybe many of you do, too. The rest of you who don't understand-- perhaps you should consider refraining from confessions of emotional inadequacy. You're embarrassing yourself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Roaring Mom, Heal Thyself

I've decided to stop giving myself a heart attack.

You know the old joke that goes something like this: A man goes into his doctor's office and says, "Doc, it hurts when I bend my elbow like this." The doctor answers, "Don't bend your elbow like that."

Ok, so it's not really funny or even very clever. But we all laugh at it anyway because of the simple honest irony. We laugh because under that simply irony is the understanding that most of the time we really do cause our own problems.

Don't balk! It's true. Here's a shining example.

Walking through the living room, I notice the overflowing clutter on the coffee table, the shoe collection under the coffee table and the discarded sweatshirts on the couch. So starts the perfectly punctuated nag. "Wouldn't it be nice to live in house where we wouldn't have to be embarrassed if someone comes to the door unexpectedly? How hard it is to pick up your own crap? What makes you guys think this is the dropping ground for all your stuff. You go to your bedroom at some point during the day, why not take this stuff with you? I swear you were more self-sufficient when you were 4 years old! Will you PLEASE pick up this room!" (Or something to that lovely effect.)

In come the clutter culprits, they pick up their things and leave...they leave a still overcrowded coffee table, a mildly edited shoe collection and something stick out from the sofa cushion.

I summon my Emphatic Voice. "Did you not hear me? Seriously guys!"

Frank appears, unflappable as always. "Mom, the rest of the stuff is yours."

Wow. That was embarrassing! I was so busy focusing on the annoyance of the situation, I forgot to focus on the cause--and the solution. I forgot to look in the mirror.

Lesson learned. Now let's hope I can successfully apply it because when I do look in the mirror--the actual mirror--I don't like what I see. And I don't particularly like how I feel. What I would like to see is currently covered by 30 pounds of too much me. Accompanying the 30 pound problem I've caused myself is  a potential heart attack, high blood pressure and possible stroke, plausible Diabetes and probably Osteoporosis. As a bonus gift, I've included a closet full of clothes that don't fit and unflattering family photos. And just think--I have only myself to thank!

So how about I do just that? How about I give myself something to "thank" about and the mirror something to smile about. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got my own problem to solve.

How do you need to heal yourself? Don't worry. Obviously, you are not alone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It Was a Dud!

I refuse to spend one penny on stuff to blow up! Call me an Independence Day Scrooge, but I just won't do it. It makes absolutely no sense to spend money on something that has the potential to blow my child's hand off, turns my alien beast dog into a crazed barking machine, and raises my blood pressure. So this year I set out to have a Quiet Independence Day.

It started out as just the most lovely day. Our neighborhood hosted its annual parade. It was a fun little five minutes. The parade is filled with big kids on riding lawn mowers, small kids on bicycles, toddlers in wagons and puppies on leashes. Everything is decked out in patriotic ribbons, banners, and balloons. The highlight of the parade--Popsicles!! They are distributed at the end to all the participants, which makes the paraders ride even faster, so, yeah, the parade lasts about 5 minutes. I missed it one year because I went into the garage to find a lawn chair. By the time I emerged, the only things I saw on the street outside my house were few overlooked Tootsie Rolls thrown from a John Deer and some Shih Tzu droppings.

So far, so good. I had smiled through the first few minutes of my Quiet Independence Day! Then I watched some war movies, enjoyed the televised musical 1776 and...that's it.

Huh. Wow. I had set out to have a quiet celebration and I had succeeded. It was a Roaring Mom first! Not much of what I set out to do ever goes as planned, especially celebrations! Immediately I thought of Sophie's 10th birthday party at the park that had ended up with little girls covered in sticker burrs, being chased by bees. Then there was Frank's party with the Pirates of the Caribbean treasure chest pinata. It was pouring down rain, so the chest was placed on the family room for and all the little "pirates" took turns pounding it with their plastic swords. There was the time I burned my fingertips off cooking a Christmas ham and the Easter we found a few of last year's eggs in the back yard. And those were just the tip of the iceberg disasters!

This year had gone just as planned and you know what...it was boring! Where was the excitement, the noise, the celebration? Without fireworks, July 4th was just another insignificant, boring, lazy day! As a proud American, I failed! Our forefathers deserve more! America deserves more! I deserve more! By sitting on my butt and refusing to participate, my July 4th was a far worse disaster than a soggy pinata or bumble bee-infested birthday cake.

Fireworks don't make America great, but our traditions do. Wrecked plans make memories and quiet is dull. Never again will I miss out on the Crash! Bam! Boom! (or even the 5 minute parade) of celebrating our independence and our great nation! In fact, our Independence should be celebrated every day. It's true that freedom isn't free. Independence isn't accidental. So light a firework, fly a flag, raise a glass...vote! Even if it raises your blood pressure!

How did you spend your Independence Day? I hope you made a great big, loud, messy memory!
From last year's parade when I wasn't sitting on my butt doing nothing.